Washington Prowler

Shrum Abandons Edwards

It's official now, as Edwards' people try to get even. Plus: Tom DeLay belabored.

By 2.26.03

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KERRY'S CARVILLE-BEGALA
Confirming what The Prowler reported last November, word leaked out earlier this week that über political consultant Bob Shrum was signing on as a media guru to Sen. John Kerry, walking away from Sen. John Edwards, whom he'd worked for in 1998 in Edwards' senatorial campaign, and whom he had been advising in the early days of his presidential run.

Shrum, who has toiled for just about every major Democratic figure in the past 25 years, has ties to several of the 2004 presidential hopefuls. He worked for Rep. Dick Gephardt's 1988 presidential run, for Kerry's Senate race in 1996 and Edwards' '98 Senate run. Most recently he was Al Gore's main media guy in 2000, after serving as one of Bill Clinton's consiglieri during impeachment.

Shrum and Kerry have been mum about a deal -- Kerry, after spending the weekend at home in Washington meeting with select delegates attending the DNC's winter meeting, is now in California working on a tan and fundraising -- but Edwards campaign staffers were more than willing to leak word of the new partnership to reporters.

"We weren't willing to give Bob the kind of control he wanted over the message and the direction of the campaign," says an Edwards source. "No properly run campaign would give any one man that kind of control."

Translation: Shrum had a choice, didn't like the looks of the Edwards campaign, went with the team he felt comfortable with, and Edwards staffers are badmouthing him.

That would appear to be so, since he has signed on to a Kerry campaign apparatus that already has several highly paid and highly thought of media consultants on board for the long haul. Clearly Shrum wasn't looking for full control as much as he was looking for a good horse to ride to the finish line and a role he would feel comfortable in.

"Let's face it," says a Kerry staffer. "Shrum by reputation will naturally just take on a leadership role here. Everyone knows how this is going to shake out."

This, after all, is a man as comfortable in front of a camera as he is behind it. "He's better than Carville or Begala because he's always calm and together," says a CBS News producer. "You might not like what he says, you might never get a word in, but he's not a screamer or a spaz. He serves his candidates well."

HOFFA SPRINGS ETERNAL
Conservatives say that House majority leader Rep. Tom DeLay is being unfairly criticized for his failure to kowtow to organized labor. DeLay was supposedly called on the carpet by the White House and Republican National Committee members for a letter sent out under his signature by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund. It slammed "big labor bosses" for exploiting their membership's position in the war on terror. In the end, DeLay apologized after Teamsters boss James Hoffa complained about the characterization to the White House and other Republicans on Capitol Hill.

What rankles so many conservatives is the apparent ease with which Hoffa was able to get Republicans to jump for him. "What has he done for the party, really?" asks one conservative fundraiser. "The Teamsters don't support our causes, they don't give particularly more to Republicans. We're all treating this guy like royalty in the hopes that maybe he'll come out and endorse Bush in 2004. I think we're all waiting for nothing."

Hoffa was, compared to other attendees, a star at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000. Various groups held fundraisers and dinners to honor Hoffa, all in an attempt to get him to do what so few organized labor leaders have been willing to do in the past 15 years: endorse Republicans. Even with all the rock-star-like adulation, Hoffa didn't step up and take a stand with the GOP. Instead he walked the fence throughout the campaign season.

Now, Republicans are once again hoping to lure Hoffa and his Teamster dollars and grassroots manpower over to the side of the good guys.

"That's fine," says a House Republican. "But don't make DeLay look bad at organized labor's expense -- that's all ass backwards as far as I'm concerned. DeLay is a life-long loyal conservative. We shouldn't sacrifice him for a Johnny-come-lately like Hoffa."

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