It is expected that most if not all of the nine identified candidates vying for DNC chairperson will travel to Orlando later this month for a dog and pony show set up by the Association of State Democratic Chairmen.
That group represents about a quarter of the 447 or so DNC votes the eight would-be DNC leaders are wooing right now. As well, some of the other non-ASDC committee members attend the conference, so the ASDC appears to be the first major DNC event where serious internal politicking can take place.
As it stands, former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean, New Democrat Network president Simon Rosenberg, former Wes Clark and John Kerry political adviser Donnie Fowler, and telecom executive Leo Hindery are scheduled to speak at the Orlando event in a group setting where some questions will also be answered. Beyond those four, defeated Texas Rep. Martin Frost, former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, former Denver mayor Wellington Webb, former White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes, and former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk have been invited, but have yet to accept.
Frost was expected to attend, if only because his is the latest hat thrown in the ring, and it is known that he has been making phone calls to jump-start his candidacy. Ickes, perhaps the best known of the group, may take a pass, according to an adviser.
The Orlando event is probably the first of what will be a series of events for the DNC chairmanship. In the past couple of weeks the committee voters have been inundated with lobbying calls from various candidates and their supporters.
Some of those supporters are interesting. John Kerry's top pick, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, pulled out of the competition less than a week after Kerry had lobbied both Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi to back him. Kerry is now believed to be supporting Shaheen, who worked for Kerry's campaign both nationally and in New Hampshire.
Pelosi is believed to be backing Dean, and working hard against her former congressional rival Frost, who is quickly emerging as more than a dark horse for the DNC seat.
Frost has proven fundraising skills and has built up huge caches of goodwill in Democratic fundraising and political circles from his years in House leadership. He is thought to be the closest to the policy/politics/fundraising mix the party is looking for.
One person definitely taking a hands-off approach is Sen. Hillary Clinton. Already tainted by her and hubby Bill's support of outgoing DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, she is not openly backing her longtime friend, adviser and fundraiser Ickes, though their relationship is endorsement enough.
"Right now, being a Clinton guy isn't necessarily the best thing to be," says a DNC staffer. "McAuliffe raised buckets of money, but we have nothing to show for it. In fact we have lost ground under his leadership. He was there because and only because the Clintons wanted him there. People are looking skeptically at anyone with ties to the Clintons this time out."
But it isn't like the Clintons care. They are operating from a position of knowing that regardless of who is sitting in the DNC chair, that person will need the Clintons more than they will need him.
According to a longtime Clinton fundraiser, the recent weeklong celebration for the opening of the Clinton library that was supposed to actually make money for the Little Rock landmark lost more than a million dollars.
Lack of high-end hotel rooms that scared off prospective visitors, too many complimentary airline and hotel packages doled out to friends at full cost, and poor turnout by the public are blamed for the losses.
At one point, former longtime Clinton White House aides put up in hotel rooms in Little Rock for the event (some actually showed up to help run the week's events) found themselves without rooms after the library gave the downtown slots to Hollywood and Washington high-rollers there for the ribbon-cutting.
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