Washington Prowler

Donniebrooks

The fights for DNC chairman. Plus: The Casey against Santorum.

By 1.14.05

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WEBB HUMBLE
It appears that the race for DNC chairman may be winnowing down to two or three candidates, with a number of elected officials urging former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb to press his candidacy harder. Webb's supporters have let it be known that everyone from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to Govs. Bill Richardson and Mark Warner has been speaking with Webb about the DNC election, and promising their support over Howard Dean and New Democrat Simon Rosenberg.

Dean is thought by some DNC insiders to have an inside track for the chairmanship, though Rosenberg has been gaining a lot of support from the moderate wing. Joe Trippi, formerly a top Dean strategist, threw his support behind Rosenberg recently.

Webb, though, has been steadily getting good press, and appears to be lining up national backing. Almost every national Democrat who has presidential aspirations in 2008 appears to have at least reached out to Webb in a public way.

Someone whose campaign for DNC chair appears to be foundering, Donnie Fowler has been writing an occasional blog about his campaign. Instead of reaching out to the moderate and conservative wing of the party, he has been playing to the Michael Moore wing. One snippet of his blog is all you need to get a sense of where the 37-year-old Donnie is coming from:

"To begin with, you should know that a 37 year old chair is not unprecedented. Ken Mehlman, the new Republican national chair is 38. And don't forget about Lee 'Willie Horton' Atwater who served Bush the First. He was 37 when he put on the brown shirt in 1989…."

In view of such sophistication, it isn't a surprise that some folks are hoping current party chair Terry McAuliffe will stay on for a few more months.

THE CASEY AGAINST SANTORUM
Senate Democrats are already getting nervous about the 2006 election cycle, and new Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer appears to be doing all he can to woo candidates, given the come-hither, slightly scary look he presents on the DSCC website.

Already the DSCC is scrambling for backup candidates in Maryland and West Virginia, should Sens. Paul Sarbanes and Bobby Byrd announce retirement plans. As for other incumbents, Republicans have already targeted Minnesota's Sen. Mark Dayton. Dayton has been experiencing fundraising problems, and recently shook up his campaign structure, bringing in Bob Shrum and outside professional fundraisers to right his listing ship.

But doubts about their own side of the aisle haven't kept minority leader Harry Reid and Schumer from dreaming big. With a likely open seat in Tennessee (the expected retirement of self-term-limited Sen. Bill Frist) and potentially competitive races in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, Republicans may have to defend more of the national map next time out than they anticipated.

And Schumer isn't making things easy for them. Earlier this week, polling data purportedly paid for by the DSCC began popping up on various Democratic-leaning websites. It showed that the current Pennsylvania state treasurer, Bob Casey, Jr., led Sen. Rick Santorum 52 to 38 in a poll of likely voters. The leaking of the polling data came coincidentally less than a week after both Schumer and Reid had begun courting Casey to run against Santorum. Casey, a pro-life Democrat, and son of the legendary Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, is said by associates in Pennsylvania to have warmed to the idea, but only if Schumer and Reid could assure him that the Democratic primary field would be cleared for him.

"He asked about it and Schumer guaranteed him a clear field," says a political consultant with ties to the DSCC. "That polling data, wherever it came from, is probably the first step toward getting Casey in line, and running off a few folks with eyes on running against Santorum"

Santorum was already girding for a bruising re-election battle, having been targeted by Democrats as Enemy No.1 in this election cycle, and Casey would make the campaign a tough one. "He's right on the issues that Catholics in Pennsylvania vote on, and moderate enough to get strong Democratic support," says the consultant. "He scares the hell out of Santorum's people."

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