The British Admiralty says the 15 sailors and marines captured by Iranian
Revolutionary Guard naval elements were nearly two miles within Iraqi waters.
** BRITAIN-IRAN STANDOFF: THINGS JUST GOT WORSE. Looks like it’s time to break out the SAS video footage. Iran’s foreign minister backed off his earlier statements to Turkish television and the AP that the lone female sailor among the 15 British sailors and marines seized by naval elements of the radical Iranian Revolutionary Guard was about to be released. Now he is saying that Britain must admit it made a mistake in having its forces in Iranian territorial waters. The British Admiralty earlier established that its folks were in Iraqi waters doing routine searches of vessels authorized by the UN Security Council.
** RICHARDSON SAYS IRAQ FOCUS INVITES “NUCLEAR 9/11,” WILL GO ON JON STEWART’S DAILY SHOW TONIGHT. New Mexico Governor and former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson, now running fourth in the California Democratic Presidential primary, told a crowd today at Johns Hopkins University that the Bush Administration’s intense focus on Iraq is missing the boat in the larger Terror War, allowing Al Qaeda to regroup and expand and could well lead to a “nuclear 9/11.” Richardson, who as U.S. secretary of energy in the Clinton Administration, worked to secure Russian nuclear warheads from the old Soviet days, says the White House has dropped the ball on nuclear security and nuclear non-proliferation. He appears on Comedy Central’s popular Jon Stewart show tonight.
** IRANIANS SHOW CAPTURED BRITS ON STATE TV. Iran showed off their 15 British captives today on state television. On the broadcast, the only woman in the crew, wearing a scarf to cover her hair, apologized for the “trespass” and said she would return to Britain with “a present from the Iranian people.” Which, of course, doesn’t sound much like something she thought up herself. The Iranian foreign minister told the AP she would be released soon, but the British government says it has no confirmation of that. British officials are angry about the showing of their captured sailors and marines on state TV.
** SCHWARZENEGGER TAPS NEW EDUCATION SECRETARY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger just appointed a new secretary of education. He is David Long, an Iowan who has 21 years of experience as a classroom teacher and since 1999 has been superintendent of schools for Riverside County, in Southern California’s fast-growing Inland Empire, where he oversees 23 school districts with more than 400,000 students. He ran two other big school districts in the region for the 10 years before that after coming to California from Mason City, Iowa — a familiar locale from the Iowa Presidential caucus — where he taught in the classroom and was an athletic coach before going into management. Long, a Republican, also chairs an advisory committee for the U.S. secretary of education on safe and drug-free schools.
Most of the questions from the press just now were on other topics, such as the reform of the state’s massive insurance fund now underway by Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a tragic auto accident involving a now former Schwarzenegger appointee to a state board, and Schwarzenegger’s daughter’s cell phone usage. The appointment of Long is actually a key building block in Schwarzenegger’s long-term plans.
The former action movie superstar intends next year to be his year of education reform, as this year is focused on health care and prisons, and last year on infrastructure and climate change. The education secretary, while a Cabinet-level post, can be either a key coordinator for administration resources and advisor to the governor, or more of a supernumerary position. This is in part because authority on education is diffused between a state Board of Education, the governor’s education secretary, and the elected state superintendent of public instruction. The latter post is held by Democrat Jack O’Connell, largely though not entirely backed by the powerful teachers unions, notably the giant California Teachers Association.
Schwarzenegger’s first education secretary was his old friend Dick Riordan, the former Los Angeles mayor who ran an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2002, in which he was torpedoed in the Republican primary by $10 million of attack ads from the incumbent Democratic Governor Gray Davis. Davis preferred to run against a conservative Republican, rather than the moderate Riordan. Riordan had strongly considered running for governor again in the 2003 recall, but didn’t get his campaign act together and Schwarzenegger jumped in instead, shocking virtually all observers, including some of his own staff.
The new governor made Riordan his education secretary, but the post didn’t really take. Riordan became best known for making what he thought was a joke about a little girl’s name, an opinion which was not widely shared. I reported some time after that that Riordan would be leaving the post shortly. Schwarzenegger’s staff described my report as “a rumor.” The next day, they had a different story, that Riordan had actually secretly resigned a month earlier. Something which Riordan said he hadn’t known.
The next education secretary was Democrat Alan Bersin, the former San Diego superintendent of schools and a Bill Clinton appointee as U.S. attorney. While there were no embarrassments, the teachers unions didn’t like Bersin and this one didn’t particularly take, either. Though not because of their criticism, more, perhaps, because the major focus was elsewhere. Next year will be different in terms of focus, and it will be interesting to see Long emerge in what will be a key new role in the Schwarzenegger administration.
** THREE-WAY DEMOCRATIC RACE IN IOWA. The new Zogby telephone poll (not the unreliable Internet poll) of likely Democratic caucus voters in next year’s first-in-the-nation Iowa presidential caucuses indicates a tight three-way race there. The poll, which was taken after John and Elizabeth Edwards announced the return of her cancer and after former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack endorsed Hillary Clinton, shows Edwards’ once firm lead in Iowa has fallen into a statistical three-way tie with Clinton and Barack Obama. The numbers from the poll, conducted among more than 500 likely Iowa caucus voters on March 26th, are: Edwards 27%, Clinton 25%, and Obama 23%.
In January, Edwards led with 27%, Obama followed with 17%, and Clinton was third with 16%. The 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee is running in place in Iowa, with most of the movement in the direction of the former first lady and New York senator.
Says pollster John Zogby: Obama, the freshest face in the Democratic field, enjoys an enormous lead among very young respondents, while Clinton leads narrowly among those in their mid–20s. Edwards ekes out a lead among those age 35–54, winning 29% support, compared to 22% each for Obama and Clinton. Edwards and Clinton are tied for the lead at 25% among those age 55–69, while Clinton holds a narrow 33% to 31% lead over Edwards among those age 70 and older. Obama does poorly, winning only 7% support among the oldest Iowa voters.
Edwards leads slightly over Obama among those with college degrees (29% to 25%), and also leads among those living in households with incomes between $75,000 and $99,000. Clinton leads among those with high school diplomas, and among those living in households with incomes under $75,000.
Edwards appears to be the darling of both the very liberal and the moderates, while Obama leads among liberals. Edward wins 33% support among those who describe themselves as “progressives,” compared to 20% for Obama and 19% for Clinton.
Among liberals, Obama leads with 33%, compared to 23% for Clinton and 21% for Edwards. Among self–described moderates, Edwards leads with 35%, compared to 23% for Clinton and 19% for Obama.
Nearly three out of four respondents (74%) said they were more likely to support a presidential nominee who would stand by what he or she believes in regardless of whether or not they could win the general election, while 22% said they are more likely to support the candidate who can win the presidency.
Through much of 2003, we saw exactly what we see here. Three out of four voters wanted someone who would stand up for their beliefs no matter what, and they flocked to the campaign of Howard Dean. He built up a head of steam through the fall as his numbers solidified, but then, that changed dramatically three weeks before the caucuses, when voters started to abandon Dean and headed into the Kerry or Edwards campaign. It will be interesting to see if history repeats itself eight or nine months from now.
Half of the likely caucus–goers (50%) said they would prefer a candidate who is someone they consider a moderate, while 28% said they would prefer a nominee who is more liberal, and 14% said they would like a more conservative Democratic Party nominee.
The top three finishers in the Democratic field all have very strong support – 98% of Edwards backers said their support is “strong” or “very strong,”, while 97% of the supporters for Obama and Clinton said the same. However, Clinton appears to have the edge in terms of intensity, as 44% of her supporters consider their support to be “very strong,” compared to just 25% of Obama’s backers who said the same.
These results contradict some of the emerging conventional wisdom about the campaign; namely that Obama is the candidate of college-educated, upscale voters, that Clinton’s support is soft, and that caucus state Democrats are all activist liberals.
** FORBES BACKS GIULIANI, CANDIDATE IN LAS VEGAS TODAY. Former conservative Republican presidential Steve Forbes, CEO of the Forbes magazine empire, has just endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president. Forbes will serve as a national co-chair and a senior policy advisor for the campaign.
Giuliani is in Nevada today, where he leads in early polling for what Nevada Republicans intend to be the second-in-the-nation contest. He has a public event in Las Vegas at 5 PM.
** BRITISH-IRANIAN STAND-OFF CONTINUES. The stand-off over the seizure by naval elements of the radical Iranian Revolutionary Guard of 15 British sailors and marines continues. The British have announced that they are cutting off all official bilateral relations with Iran on topics other than the seizure of their personnel and Special Air Service (SAS) commandos are planning a retrieval mission. Meanwhile, the lone woman among the captives may, according to the report of a Turkish TV station on remarks of the Iranian foreign minister, be released.
The British Admiralty announced that the two rigid inflatable boats containing the UK personnel were 1.7 nautical miles within Iraqi waters. The Iranians claim they were in Iranian waters, but apparently first provided a set of coordinates which are actually in Iraqi waters.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices are up, in the $64 to $66 per barrel range, with the continued stand-off between Britain and Iran. They shot up well above that yesterday on rumors of impending military action.