John Weaver is already working for the Democrats, providing strategic political advice to both House and Senate leaders on ways to beat the Republicans. Now he's telling reporters and colleagues that he's ready to jump on a Democratic presidential campaign.
Weaver is surely a man in demand, given that he masterminded the John McCain "Straight Talk" presidential primary campaign against George W. Bush in 2000. On the basis of that thorn-in-the-side experience, Bush loyalists did just about everything to lock Weaver out of Republican political circles.
To be fair, Weaver wasn't that much of a Republican or a conservative to begin with, so his jump to jobs with Rep. Dick Gephardt and the Democratic caucus in the Senate shouldn't have come as that big of a surprise.
But if Weaver does end up working for a Democratic presidential campaign, he could present all kinds of problems to other Dem camps, not to mention Bush in the general election if it gets that far.
"He's got all kinds of state lists of so-called independent voters," says a Democratic leadership staffer. "He knows how to reach out to those people, get them mobilized and what buttons to push to get them to cross over." Especially in New Hampshire.
Best bets for luring Weaver go to Gephardt and -- perhaps -- Sen. John Edwards, who is still looking for senior campaign advisers. Gephardt would appear to be the natural option, if only because Weaver has been doing work for him over the past few months.
CHEAT EARLY BUT OFTEN
The AFL-CIO has already found a way to help the Democratic National Committee with its 2004 election plans. So far it has received $20 million in commitments from local unions to underwrite a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that will fund "get out the vote" programs around the country. The organization, which will be run by the union's former political director, Steve Rosenthal, intends to focus its windfall on swing states in the rust belt, New York, Florida and some western states, in all about a dozen states.
All of the money will be directed toward getting the vote out for Democratic candidates. While the DNC can't touch all that lucre, it has been meeting with AFL-CIO officials to help the union map out the game plan for the new outfit, which will be up and running by the middle of February.
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