Washington Prowler

Listening In

In tune with Thune. Breaking Dean’s enigma code. Gore and Bradley on tour. Hillary sings. Plus more.

By 1.6.04

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STARTING IN THUNE
Dick Wadhams, who in past years successfully steered the initial campaigns of Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard and Gov. Bill Owens, jumped on board the South Dakota Senate campaign of former Rep. John Thune on Monday, in what may be a pivotal race for Republicans.

Thune, in announcing his decision to challenge the troubled sitting Senate minority leader Tom Daschle, said he could not take the easy way out and run for a winnable seat in the House of Representatives, when a historic opportunity awaited him in a Senate run that could tip the scales more solidly for Republicans.

The former congressman is starting from scratch, which apparently is just fine with Wadhams, who joked with South Dakota reporters: "What do you call it when the minority leader has $3 million in the bank and a staff of 30 running against a former congressman with no money in the bank and a staff of two people? I call that a fair fight."

Currently Thune's staff consists of Wadhams and John Wood, who worked for Allard.

Wadhams has become a thorn in the sides of Democrats, and has built a reputation for winning tight fights, which is what the Thune-Daschle race is expected to be. Recall that neither Allard nor Owens was given much of a shot of victory in his initial venture, and each pulled off a strong.

Rep. George Nethercutt, who is running for the Senate in Washington state had wanted Wadhams for his campaign, was disappointed to learn Wadhams had chosen Thune. A staffer on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee crowed about Nethercutt's loss, telling reporters that Wadhams had bypassed Nethercutt because he wanted to work on a winning campaign and not a losing one.

"I don't know who should be more insulted, Nethercutt or Daschle," says a staffer on the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. "But it's good to see Thune is already running so strong among Democrats."

PLUGGED IN
Reporters on Monday afternoon dialed into a conference call they thought would be with former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean, who wanted to rail against President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program.

Instead, upon being hooked in, reporters were treated to a conference call being held by senior Dean campaign staffers.

"We gave out the time and pass code for the conference call, but didn't realize it would be the same line our staff would be using, so some reporters signing on early got the inside dope," says a Dean staffer.

There were no bombshells, though one interesting tidbit involved a Dean campaign phone survey from the weekend in Iowa that indicated voters perceived Dean as "indecisive." The Dean team agreed that former Senator Bill Bradley's remarks in New Hampshire on Tuesday would be targeted toward dispelling that notion.

Dean's staffers cut short the conversation when another reporter signed on and asked whether he was on the right conference call.

MISSIONS IMPOSSIBLE
Now that Al Gore and Bill Bradley have apparently bought into the Howie Dean vision for America, they have received their marching orders.

Gore has scheduled trips to Iowa in the coming days, as well as South Carolina, where Dean is attempting to buttress support and stem momentum his staff believes both Rep. Dick Gephardt and Sen. John Edwards are gaining there.

Meanwhile Bradley has several New Hampshire appearances scheduled, and will also visit Missouri (the state of his birth and where he remains popular). "We're also going to use him heavily in the New York area for media appearances in the next two weeks," says a Dean staffer. Which makes sense, given Dollar Bill's renown as a former New York Knick and Princeton All-American and senator from New Jersey.

SMOOTH LANDING
Jim Jordan, who was fired from his campaign manager's position by Sen. John Kerry so that the Massachusetts Mumbler could show he had leadership skills, has landed on his feet. While the name of his firm is not yet known, Jordan is setting up a political policy communications shop that has already been hired by the large, union-backed 527s operated by former Clinton chief of staff Harold Ickes and Service Employees International Union boss Steven Rosenthal.

STRIP CHATTER
While it wasn't an endorsement, Hillary Clinton says we can thank her and her husband for Howard Dean's presidential run. In an interview in Las Vegas last weekend, the New York Senator alleged that she and hubby Bill encouraged Dean to run for president and implied they've been offering him advice ever since. Again, more evidence that she's been mapping out her run for 2008 all along.

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