Washington Prowler

Up to His Ankles

Newt is getting downright serious about thinking about testing the waters. Also: Sound the alarm: Chuck Schumer is playing nice. Plus: Rudy: Yes, Dear.

By 9.24.07

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MR. OCTOBER
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is examining whether or not to enter a "testing the waters" campaign phase beginning the first week of October. According to Gingrich associates, he is mulling an announcement tour that would include appearances on one major Sunday morning show next weekend, along with several Fox News shows on Monday, as well as an appearance on Dr. James Dobson's radio show.

"It's not a coincidence that you saw Dr. Dobson attacking Fred Thompson when he did," says a former associate of Dobson's. "There's a strategy here, and it's about clearing the way for Gingrich to get in."

Shortly after Gingrich appeared on Dobson's radio show earlier this year and poured his heart our to Dobson, who forgave him for past personal indiscretions, Dobson attacked Thompson for not being -- in Dobson's view -- a Christian. That attack was interpreted by many to be Dobson's attempt to deflate what was then growing support for Thompson within the social conservative movement.

Last week, Dobson again attacked Thompson by leaking an email to the Associated Press slamming the former Tennessee Senator who currently sits second in most national polls. Across the south, he generally holds the top position. Most recently, the Mason Dixon poll in Florida had Thompson within the margin of error of top dog Rudy Giuliani.

According to other Gingrich associates, their man had held off any plans for entering the race until seeing how well Thompson's launch would proceed. "In Newt's eyes it's been mixed. Some good, some bad. But what he's been looking for are details and ideas from Thompson, many of which he's shared with him, but there's been nothing, no specifics," says another adviser. "Newt still sees an opening."

The "testing the waters" process would allow Gingrich to raise some funds over a short period of time (the FEC generally assumes a period of no more than four months, and usually not more than five million or so dollars). Gingrich last week stated that he wouldn't run unless there was a certainty of about $30 million.

According to Gingrich insiders, the former Speaker of the House has kept his fundraising network largely intact and on the sidelines during the campaign fundraising cycle, and believes he could easily raise between $10 and $15 million in the month of October.

ON HIS BEST BEHAVIOR
Some Republicans were scratching their heads over Sen. Chuck Schumer's apparent endorsement of Judge Michael B. Mukasey for Attorney General. But according to senior Senate Democrat leadership aides, all is not what it appears to be.

Prior to Mukasey's nomination by President Bush, Schumer and several other senior Democrat members of the Judiciary Committee met with Senate majority leader Harry Reid and his deputy, Sen. Dick Durbin. Schumer informed them that Mukasey had a good reputation in New York, and that he didn't feel comfortable attacking him. Reid said that leadership would handle the "dirty work," according to a Senate leadership aide.

"They aren't going to put on the full court press on Mukasey, but they are going to make him sweat a bit," says the leadership aide. "We'll let the ACLU and other civil liberties groups go after him, and Reid and Durbin will put up a fight, but Schumer isn't going to have to do too much. Mukasey's record is good, there isn't much there to push back on yet."

That said, Schumer has asked his Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee to prepare fundraising materials attacking Mukasey should the opportunity arise to raise some campaign cash against him.

MARGINAL CALL
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's campaign stages the "unexpected" phone calls from wife Judith during his speeches, according to a campaign source.

"They think it's funny and kind of cute," says the Giuliani staffer in New York.

The Giuliani's pulled the stunt during his appearance before the National Rifle Association on Friday. Attendees were unsure how to interpret the interruption during the prepared remarks. There was nervous laughter and little to no applause. Giuliani quickly returned to his prepared remarks.

Judith Nathan has largely been kept under wraps after her initial appearances in public and the media created controversy.

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