Washington Prowler

Hillary Sets Up Shop; Specter Panicked

All set for 2008 -- or Albany 2006? Arlen cancels. Also: Powell fired. Plus: Freight to Little Rock.

By 11.15.04

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ENERGY IN THE EXECUTIVE
So Senator Hillary Clinton has a presidential campaign headquarters and it has both a Washington and New York address.

With the announced move of Clinton fundraiser Patti Solis Doyle over to the Glover Park Group, it might as well be called Clinton '08 Headquarters.

The Glover Park Group is a communications and corporate and political consulting firm founded by longtime Clinton/Gore rat packers Carter Eskew and Joe Lockhart, as well as former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee director and Hill Clinton spokesperson Howard Wolfson and Hillary Clinton adviser Gigi Georges, who manages the firm's New York office.

When Sen. John Kerry's campaign foundered in the late summer, Democrats turned to Glover Park for help. Lockhart signed on as the campaign's communications guru. Wolfson was also involved in the campaign, though due to internal campaign power struggles, was never formally brought on board.

Senator Clinton has signed what amounts to a six-figure retainer for the group, which, according to sources, locks down Wolfson and Georges, and at times Lockhart should she decide to run for re-election to the Senate in 2006. Doyle until a few weeks ago served as Clinton's national political director of HillPac, her senatorial political action committee.

It's important to recall that Georges in particular, as well as longtime Clinton ally Harold Ickes, are strong New York state operatives, and Clinton may be looking at another office to run for in '06, one that might further burnish her political and management background, say a governorship of large northeastern state.

There has been a growing buzz that Clinton is not wholly satisfied that she can run for the presidency as a U.S. Senator, and junior Senator at that. Lord knows it didn't work out so well for John Kerry.

But Clinton would find running for governor of New York to be perhaps a far greater challenge than some inside the Beltway might think, though with some potential, long-term upside.

"Her campaign would have to address the 'Will she run for president in two years?' question everywhere she goes, and she would have to answer it more honestly than her husband did back in '90," says a former President Clinton staffer. "That said, six years as governor of New York and then running for President certainly gives you everything you'd want for a résumé. There is a ton of political calculation there, but it would be awfully ballsy to pull off, and I'm not sure even the Clintons think that far ahead."

Regardless of what Clinton runs for, Patti Solis Doyle's presence at Glover Park is a sign that that firm will be the political beehive for whatever Clinton decides to do. Doyle will most likely oversee fundraising for Clinton's re-election account, as well as coordinate national and in-state donor programming for Clinton, according to a Clinton Senate staffer. "I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple more Clinton people end up over there, too," the staffer said.

CAN'T TRUST THAT DAY
Midday Monday, members of the conservative "Monday Meeting" group in New York received the following e-mail:

"We regret to announce that Senator [Arlen] Specter's office has informed us that Senator Specter would be unable to attend tonight's Monday Meeting. According to Senator Specter's office, the Senator is held up in Washington by the demands of regular business in light of plans for a shortened lame duck session as well as the demands of meetings relating to leadership issues."

Specter was expected to attend last night's meeting with Sen. Rick Santorum, and to mount his most public defense for the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Specter's office was doing a bit of spin on Specter's cancellation. Santorum, after all, remained committed to attending the meeting and shilling for his fellow Pennsylvanian.

Word among senior Senate staffers was that Specter over the past 36 hours has grown increasingly alarmed at what he is hearing out of the GOP caucus in the Senate. Pointedly: that support for his chairmanship is rapidly crumbling under an assault from conservative groups across the country.

On Monday in Washington, a number of incoming freshman Republican Senators were asked about their support of Specter, and to a man, most declined to say what they were thinking of doing.

These were piled on top of the brutally frank remarks of Senate leader Sen. Bill Frist on Sunday, which made it clear that Specter will have to fight for his chairmanship without the aid of his GOP leadership.

Even Judiciary member Sen. John Cornyn is believed to be privately leaning toward voting against Specter, despite some public words of support late last week. "What Senator Cornyn said was not a public statement of support, it was an attempt to convey to Senator Specter that he had to be more vocal and clear about where his head was at, and that if he were more open and frank publicly, support for him would follow," says a Cornyn staffer. "If Senator Specter misconstrued the remarks, that is unfortunate."

There is a school of thought inside the Senate that Specter has indeed badly misjudged the environment in which he has been operating. "Specter for the past week has believed that he was winning this thing," says a Senate leadership staffer. "Today [Monday] it appears that it has finally become clear to him that he is not winning this thing. He is losing it, unless he starts making a concerted effort to sway some votes. The Senator's staff may have done him a great disservice by leading him to believe he was successfully weathering this situation."

The resulting panic is what led Specter to cancel his appearance in New York and to focus his attention, not on public relations, but on private discussions with his Senate colleagues. "The folks at the Monday Meeting aren't the ones who are going to cast a vote for him behind closed doors in a couple of months," says another Senate staffer. "That he has been unable to shore up support within the committee is troubling. Perhaps he isn't working hard enough."

POWELL FIRED
Word is that Secretary of State Colin Powell was surprised by President Bush's decision to ask him to step aside last Friday. Over the weekend, the news of Powell's unceremonious dumping began to leak out at private cocktail parties and dinners.

To be fair, Bush has treated the exit of Cabinet members with equal swiftness and candor, according to White House sources. "There has been thanks for their service, clear gratitude, but that it was time for a change and a shakeup. No one should be surprised by this," says an insider.

Powell, however, unlike Ashcroft, Abraham, Veneman and Paige, didn't expect to get the ax so quickly. According to State Department sources, with the death of Palestinian terrorist Yasser Arafat, Powell expected to be kept on at least to get the ball re-rolling on the long-stalled Bush Administration "road map" peace plan. Now it appears the opening created by recent events will be filled by a Bush protégé.

CARRYING CHARGES
The Clinton Library is spending some of its hard-earned corporate donations to fly down more than 170 former Clinton White House staffers to the Little Rock dedication ceremonies. Not all of the 170 are going entirely gratis, however. Only about 50 of Clinton's closest advisers are making the three-day trip cost-free. The library will pick up all expenses for those special few, excluding incidentals.

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