Washington Prowler

Focus Gropings

Democrats prepare their post-State of the Union strike. Plus: Illinois' successor to Lincoln and Adlai Stevenson. Also: a Rush to judgment.

By 1.16.03

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LOCKE IN
Democrats aren't waiting around to hear snippets and leaked themes of President Bush's State of the Union Address to be made on January 28. Already the Democratic National Committee is drafting its response to that speech, which will be delivered by Gov. Gary Locke of Washington. Locke, an Asian American, is, according to a DNC source, going to hit Bush on the kitchen-table issues of jobs, the economy and fiscal disaster in the states, for which many Democratic governors blame Bush administration policies.

Locke, the incoming president of the National Governors Association, beat out New Mexico's officially Hispanic Gov. Bill Richardson, who had been campaigning for the opportunity to take pot shots at Bush's speech. "We knew we needed a person of diversity doing the talking," says a Democratic communications staffer in the Senate. "But Richardson blew it with all this North Korea stuff."

It won't be just Locke beating on Bush. Senate minority leader Tom Daschle has scheduled what his people are calling a "major" economic address on January 24, four days before Bush utters the words "My fellow Americans ... " Daschle's team, in concert with the DNC, has been holding small focus groups to measure just what ideas and even what words play best. That same data is also playing into Locke's speech.

"These may be the two best shots we have to really get some traction on the issues we think will help us sink this administration," says the Senate staffer. "They will lay the groundwork for everything else we try to do in the coming months."

NO STOPPING HER
Former senator Carol Moseley-Braun is expected to announce today that she will be running for her old seat on Capitol Hill. Moseley-Braun lost it six years ago to Republican Peter Fitzgerald. According to a Chicago Democratic operative, Moseley-Braun elicited laughter from several party officials several weeks ago when she told them she was mulling announcing a run for the presidency.

"They couldn't help themselves," says the operative. "It just came out of left field."

Actually, it's not surprising the former Senator, who once famously told staffers that she deserved to be treated like a princess, has an inflated opinion of her political powers. There was a period earlier this year when Moseley-Braun was telling associates she was mulling a run for mayor of Chicago. This, against sitting Mayor Richard Daley, who won his last re-election bid with about 69 percent of the vote.

Braun's chances of regaining her old Senate seat are unclear. The national Democratic Party has been recruiting for the seat, and she wasn't on its list of favorites. Likewise, the Democratic campaign committee in the Senate, led by Sen. Jon Corzine, has been researching potential challengers to Fitzgerald and had already ruled out Moseley-Braun's comeback.

But the former Clinton New Zealand ambassador doesn't appear to care much for her party elders' opinions. "She's running, if for no other reason than to get their attention," says a Democratic fundraiser who has worked with Moseley-Braun in the past. "She doesn't feel she was treated well by the party after she lost last time around. They haven't done much to help her career in the past few years. Now maybe if they care about that Senate seat, they will pay a bit more attention to her."

RUSH TO JUDGMENT
Here's one little legislative move for new Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay to kill with his velvet hammer: Rep. Bobby Rush, a former member of the Black Panthers, is telling supporters back in Chicago that he going to nominate former Gov. George Ryan for the Congressional Gold Medal as reward for the disgraced Illinois Republican's decision to commute all death sentences in his state. Rush intends to nominate Ryan later this month and is guaranteeing passage. Mr. DeLay, do your thing.

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