Former Sen. Connie Mack, one of the figures responsible for the GOP losing the control of the Senate in 2001, has signed on as an honorary chairman of former Rep. Bill McCollum's Senate campaign. McCollum has indicated he will challenge either Sen. Bob Graham or the Democrat who fills that slot should Graham choose to run for president instead of seeking re-election in 2004.
Back in 2000 Democrats were not going to put up a serious challenger against Mack. But then he announced his retirement, months before the end of the Senate session. Worse, he refused to resign early, meaning Republican Gov. Jeb Bush could not appoint a Republican replacement, who would have had an advantage in the 2000 election.
As a result of Mack's failure to put the party first -- and Republican Senate leader Trent Lott's lack of leadership in declining to pressure Mack to step aside early -- Democrats easily defeated McCollum, who ran a lackluster campaign.
"McCollum is lining up people, even though we're not encouraging it," said a Florida GOP staffer. "We're waiting on Washington to sort through some other candidates before we start lining up our support. Frankly, I think we'd be better off if McCollum didn't run, given his past performance."
Mack, who has remained out of the limelight since his retirement, is expected to help McCollum with his fundraising in-state. Rep. Mark Foley, a rising star in the House GOP, has already begun laying out his desires and plans for a Senate run, focusing much of his early energy on Washington-based fundraising along the K Street lobbying corridor.
IT'S NOW OR NEVER
The financial future of Sen. John Edwards' presidential hopes will be riding heavily on his performance on the road in the next couple of weeks. Perhaps most important is a speech he will make at the upcoming winter meeting of the AFL-CIO executive board in Fort Lauderdale.
Some union membership has already lined up behind Sen. John Kerry, and Edwards is eager to step in and try to win support among other senior members of the nation's most influential union. "Several candidates can do well with AFL-CIO backing," says an Edwards staffer. "The key is having that support early and holding on to it. Kerry can get his. We want ours."
As well, Edwards will be in New York for a major fundraiser backed by businessmen in the entertainment community. Donors will attend a special performance of Hairspray and hear from Edwards. His staff has put out a rumor that former President Bill Clinton will attend the event, but Clinton's staff has said he has no plans to attend fundraisers of individual candidates this early in the process.
"He's spoken with many of the men looking to run, and he's talked about the advice he's given," says a Clinton staffer. "But it wouldn't be appropriate for him to attend private fundraisers for individual candidates."
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