Retired Gen. Wesley Clark may or may not be a stalking horse for former President Bill Clinton's aspirations for his political partner, Hillary, but he's definitely using Clinton's connections to the nth degree
Last night, he spent part of his evening with Clinton's chum Mary Steenburgen, who was hosting a fundraiser for Clark in Los Angeles. That party was to top off an evening that started at the home of ultra-liberal Norman Lear, who was also hosting a fundraiser for Clark.
According to a campaign operative for the Sen. Joe Lieberman campaign, Clark is using almost every Clinton connection he can to jump-start the finances of his campaign. "We should know, thanks to Gore in 2000, we were using many of the same sources, especially out in Hollywood," says the Lieberman staffer. "We're getting little traction out there right now because Clark is drawing on all of them."
Not surprisingly, Clark is using his "man of the moment" status to lend a hand to another Clinton client, California Gov. Gray Davis. According to several Democratic Party sources in California, Clark wasn't big on appearing with Davis anywhere in the state, but Clinton pushed the appearances, saying it would raise Clark's visibility in the state, hook him into Davis's money people, and make him appear to be a party leader. Clark, after initially declining, then speaking to Clinton, agreed to the Davis appearances. But he also insisted on making at least one appearance with Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.
One appearance he won't be making is on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show." The NBC late night show invited Clark on, but advisers encouraged him to decline. "Leno is a Republican," says a former Clinton aide doing work in Washington for Clark on Capitol Hill. "Leno's whole shtick with Arnold leading up to his announcement was pure politics. Democrats are going to be leery of going on that show. Letterman has more cachet anyway."
Democrats were shocked by the poor fundraising performance of Sen. John Edwards in the third-quarter reporting period. The man who led much of the presidential wannabe pack in pulling in dough during the first two quarters, raked in a less than $3 million in the past three months. That figure is mid-range for this group of Democrats, but its weakness is revealed when you consider that Gen. Wesley Clark has raised about $2 million in the past two weeks.
Edwards remains in the top half of Democrats, but failed to crack the $20 million overall fundraising mark his campaign had internally set to meet after three quarters. Sen. John Kerry and ex-Gov. Howie Dean were the only Dems to meet that level for the campaign fundraising drive.
"People are going to start saying Edwards should not have announced he was stepping out of the Senate race in North Carolina," says a DNC staffer. "You're going to start to hear the second guessing. But the assumption here says that he will be the only true southerner in the race by the time November rolls around."
That is a reference to the announcement many expect to hear from Sen. Bob Graham: that he is ending his presidential bid. Graham raised less than $2 million. Perhaps much less, depending on whom you speak to in the campaign. Not only has he not caught on with cash-givers, he has failed to catch on with voters or the media.
"You look at this whole Iraq thing. The leak thing," says the DNC staffer, "and Graham should have been all over it. But he wasn't. When the TV folks latched on to the Joe Wilson story earlier in the week, who did they have talking about it? Sen. Harry Reid. Graham is just not part of the debate. He's done."
With Graham out, Edwards would be in a prime position to campaign -- at the least -- as a solid nominee for vice president, a position he is said to happily assume.
Rep. Dick Gephardt and his campaign were desperate for the AFL-CIO to make an early endorsement for president. Union boss John Sweeney was inclined to do Gephardt the favor. But after what some union officials said was a contentious meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Sweeney emerged to call Gephardt's people to tell them there would be no early endorsement.
Gephardt has been getting organized labor endorsements, but has seen his campaign stall out a bit, particularly in Iowa, where he was expected to win in a walk, but has now fallen behind Howie Dean in the polls. Gephardt's people were hoping an early endorsement by the full AFL-CIO body would give them some added momentum, cash and volunteers leading into the final stretch drive of the primary runup.
Sweeney met with the leaders of the ten largest unions that operate under the AFL-CIO umbrella on Tuesday. The meeting was intended to gauge the labor leaders' interest in holding an endorsement vote on October 14th. The answer was a loud, no.
In order to gain the full AFL-CIO endorsement, a candidate has to receive at a minimum the support of the two-thirds of affiliated unions. Gephardt has been endorsed by 14 such organizations. Sen. John Kerry has been endorsed by one. No other Democrat has received the formal support of an AFL-CIO affiliated national union.
Gephardt is pushing so hard, because the three largest unions under the AFL-CIO umbrella -- the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) -- have thus far declined to move quickly, and appear to be leaning toward supporting candidates other than Gephardt.
Howie Dean is expected to receive the endorsement of the SEIU, this, after, wowing members during a Washington political event last month. Meanwhile, AFSCME, which was thought to be leaning toward an endorsement of Sen. John Kerry, after its leader, Gerald McEntee, began talking up the Massachusetts Democrat more than a year ago, appears to have cooled on him. Just this week, McEntee held his fourth meeting with Gen. Wesley Clark. Why? Because Bill Clinton suggested that the two meet regularly. In Democratic politics, it all begins and ends with the man from Hope.
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