Despite public comments from Georgia GOP chief Ralph Reed that he is not interested in running for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Zell Miller, the White House and the Republican National Committee continue to keep his name in play as Karl Rove and his associates map out campaign strategy for 2004.
"Reed's not in a position as state party chairman to announce he'll run, it's his job to recruit the best candidates, so he's doing and saying the right things," says an RNC staffer. "In the end, though, he might be the best candidate depending on who the Democratic field shapes up."
The Republican field for that race is expected to get crowded. "We'd prefer to have a favorite and a single, strong candidate for the state party to rally behind," says the RNC staffer. "That formula worked well in 2002. It follows that it would work again."
The Democratic field for Miller's seat appeared to pick up another candidate when former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson announced last week that he might enter the race. Jackson has been looking for just about any office that will give him influence in the national Democratic Party. He attempted to mount a campaign against DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, but stepped aside when McAuliffe gave him what was at the time called a "high profile" role in the national party. Jackson hasn't been heard from since.
Jackson's presence in the race might clear the field a bit, though McAuliffe has made it clear in public comments that he will not intervene directly in primary races. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Sen. Jon Corzine has not tabbed a recruit for the Georgia race. Jackson is said not to be his first choice, though Jackson could probably fundraise a good portion of his campaign budget. Corzine has said that he wants to find as many "self-financing" candidates as he can. Jackson does not fall into that category.
Former President Bill Clinton is telling friends and Democratic insiders that the Gore campaign in 2000 never gave him a chance to enter the fray against George W. Bush. "Now that he doesn't have to hold back for anyone, he's campaigning against Bush like he wanted to back then," says a former Clinton staffer. "The gloves are off."
Signs of Clinton stepping back into the bare-knuckled political arena were evident last week, when he tore into Bush for the administration's economic stimulus package and the deficits the war on terror and the weakened economy are creating.
Later in the week, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton lashed Bush over homeland security in a speech the former president told friends he helped craft.
"President Clinton has said he wants to use the next two years to wear down Bush so whoever is the Democratic candidate will have an easier time of beating him," says the former Clinton aide. "He's going to show the party the way to beat the Republicans. If they choose to ignore him, and lose again in 2004, it just means that Hillary will have a clearer field to run in in 2008. Either way, Clinton wins."
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