Washington Prowler

Moseley on Down

The surprise presidential prospects of a Senate loser.

By 1.19.03

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So we were wrong. Apparently Carol Moseley-Braun couldn't hear the laughter and has decided she will at the least dip her toe into the candidacy pool for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Moseley-Braun, as we reported late last week, was thought to have decided to nix the presidential run, and instead was planning to announce on Friday that she would seek to regain the Illinois Senate seat she lost six years ago to Republican Peter Fitzgerald.

But that's not what happened. She's not going to run for the Senate. But she is going ahead with a possible presidential try.

According to several Democratic National Committee sources, her decision was partially forced upon her. In conversations with DNC chief Terry McAuliffe and friends still holding Senate seats on Capitol Hill, Moseley-Braun was told that there wasn't much enthusiasm for her to run again for the Senate. "The Democratic campaign committee up on the Hill and the DNC have already been looking into a candidate to challenge Fitzgerald. It's one of the few campaigns we think we're in a good position to win," says a DNC source.

Almost all of the potential Senate candidates, at least those on Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Jon Corzine's list, are independently wealthy Illinoisans who wouldn't require a huge chunk of change from his DSCC or the DNC. Moseley-Braun would need it from both.

But, according to the DNC staffer, when Moseley-Braun raised the possibility of running for president, McAuliffe didn't laugh, at least out loud. In fact, McAuliffe has tentatively blocked out space for the former senator to speak at next month's national party conference in Washington, D.C.

At this stage of the game, a presidential exploratory committee wouldn't cost Moseley-Braun much cash, and it wouldn't serve to scare off potential primary challengers in the Senate race, as her presence there most certainly would have done.

Perhaps even more surprising than Moseley-Braun's decision is the person who at least for now appears to be advising her: longtime Clinton and Gore political hatchetlady Donna Brazile. Of late, she has been working on a memoir, as well as advising the Democratic Party on minority outreach issues. She was highly visible during Sen. Mary Landrieu's runoff election in Louisiana last month.

"I don't think Carol can afford Brazile for long," says another DNC staffer. "Brazile could make a lot more working for another candidate, but perhaps she sees Moseley-Braun as a vehicle to achieve something that a Kerry or Gephardt wouldn't be able to do for her."

Supporters of Moseley-Braun crow that their girl's run would be historic. But only inasmuch as she'd be the first failed African-American Senator running for president. Rep. Shirley Chisolm made true history by being the first African-American woman to run for president decades ago.

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