Virginia Gov. Mark Warner was the clear favorite of Florida Democrats at their convention in Disney World. A number of "national" Democrats trekked down to Orlando for the weekend event, such as Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and 2004 vice-presidential loser John Edwards.
Warner was the only prospective candidate who got both a standing ovation before and after his speech, which was focused not only on introducing himself, but also explaining in broad-brush strokes how a liberal Democrat in moderate clothing was able to win in the South.
John Edwards, on the other hand, had delegates simply revisiting the disaster that was the Kerry/Edwards ticket two years ago. While he was greeted warmly, some delegates attending his speech said they had no desire to see Edwards make another run.
One of the more humorous sights has been DNC chairman Howard Dean using Disney World security teams to stand guard over his personal appearances with delegates. He often has them stand outside the doors blocking entrances to nosy outsiders. Dean in the private sessions has been predicting Democratic sweeps in both the House and Senate, promising the party will regain control of Congress.
It's expected that some time after January 2006, House Republicans will return to elect or re-elect leadership of the caucus. At this point, it isn't clear that Rep. Tom DeLay's legal difficulties will be cleared up by then. DeLay attorneys are hoping that the two charges that still remain in Texas will be wiped off the board by that time. DeLay has told Hill associates that he expects to have a hearing on dismissing those charges before Christmas.
At a Republican retreat on St. Michael's Island in Maryland two weeks ago, there was private discussion among members there about electing permanent, new leadership after the House recess ends January 31. For an election to occur, a full caucus meeting to discuss the election must be held at the petitioned request of 50 caucus members. A majority of the caucus must then agree to an election timeline.
Rumors of a leadership election have been swirling around the Capitol for several weeks. Last week, Rep. Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) told his caucus that he intended to remain as chairman of the House Republican campaign committee through the 2006 election cycle. Reynolds was one of a handful of names being tossed around for a new leadership position.
One person who has done little to tamp down rumors is Rep. John Boehner (Ohio). He is believed to be actively, but quietly mapping out a strategy with outside advisers for a post-holiday recess play for an election that would vault him into a senior leadership position in the caucus.
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