Washington Prowler

Playing for Veeps

The Floridian in Howie’s future. Plus: Howie’s Hun style.

By 12.22.03

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Sen. John Edwards may be running for the vice presidency while campaigning for president, and Wesley Clark may be claiming he's already been asked to be the number two, but it's Sen. Bob Graham -- he of the failed presidential bid -- who appears to be very publicly seeking the position at the bottom of Vermont Gov. Howie Dean's ticket.

In November, at the Florida Democratic Party convention, Graham met with Dean for more than hour, and then went out and sung the man's praises to the press and the conventioneers. Graham's wife has attended Dean fundraisers in Miami, and in early December, Graham's daughter, Gwen Logan, was hired by the Dean campaign as a "senior advisor."

All of this, coupled with Dean's pronouncement that he will make up for his foreign policy inexperience with his vice-presidential pick, has led many to believe that the veepship is Graham's to lose.

"And he's got a heart problem, so we're even up with Bush-Cheney," says a Dean staffer in New Hampshire.

Howie Dean's seeming desire to all but announce the selection of his cabinet before a single vote is struck or a straw drawn is irking quite a few in the Democratic establishment.

"I've never seen anything quite like this," says a former senior DNC staffer. "He was actually asking [Wesley] Clark to be his vice president months ago. That reveals either a remarkable level of hubris or a perception that the party is like some kind of third-rate organ, like the Greens or Perot's operation. It simply isn't done this way, but no one has had the nerve to put the man in his place."

DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe has heard the complaints, but has insisted that it wouldn't be right for him to get involved with such issues and pointers during a primary battle. His decision not to do so may come back to haunt him. "McAuliffe right now appears to be asleep at the wheel," says the long-time Democrat. "We're all beginning to doubt the wisdom of going along with Clinton and elevating him to head the party. This may have been over his head financially and politically."

Beyond the national party, even Dean's aides are beginning to grumble about their man's desire to cut deals and make plans, often without their knowledge. Senior Dean aides continue to question the wisdom of taking Al Gore's endorsement so early in the process. But Dean and Gore struck a deal before many of the Dean campaign staff could weigh in. Similarly, Dean offered Clark the vice presidency nod, but in a private meeting not attended by any of the Vermonter's aides.

"At some point, we're going to have to begin wondering what kind of other deals he's cut in the back room," says a Dean staffer in Iowa. "And that is no way to run a national campaign."

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