NOISE IN ILLINOIS
Last week White House adviser Karl Rove spent time in Chicago dining with and talking to state Republican Party officials and high-end donors about the coming election cycle. Illinois, it is assumed, will be voting largely Democratic in 2004, but it appears that Rove isn't willing to give the Democrats an easy win. This is in part due to the retirement of Sen. Peter Fitzgerald and the creation of an open Senate seat that is going to be critical to both parties for control of that chamber.
"Rove talked glowingly about Jim Edgar," said an attendee at the dinner, referring to the former Illinois governor who has indicated a willingness to run for Fitzgerald's seat. "The way he talked, it sounded like it was fifty-fifty Edgar would run."
It is known that Rove did speak with Edgar on this trip, but other Republicans are getting involved in the recruitment. Next week Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, and Sen. George Allen, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, will be in Chicago to meet with Edgar as well as many of the same people Rove met with.
"Edgar is the guy. Right now he's the only one we're focusing on," says an NRSC staffer.
Edgar has been coy about his candidacy, saying all the right things but declining to throw himself fully into the campaign pool. While viewed as a moderate, Edgar presents the same kind of attractive package that helped Elizabeth Dole win in North Carolina last election cycle: he has the name recognition, the donor support, and the ability to fundraise outside the state, and his presence in the race would clear the primary of any other competition.
That is, unless he makes Club for Growth president Stephen Moore really mad.
If their debate in South Carolina last Saturday was any indication, the Democratic presidential nine is listing heavily to the left, pulling normally moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe Lieberman down with them. So it should come as no surprise that the Democratic Leadership Council is holding a top secret session next week in Washington to discuss how best to push its candidates toward the middle.
A key lecture will be presented by former president Bill Clinton, but perhaps the biggest stars at the show will be Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who is quickly becoming the DLC's newest poster boy.
Warner, who has begun a very public campaign for the vice-presidential nomination, is expected to speak to the press next Thursday or Friday about this private DLC seminar. "The fact that Warner is so visibly involved should tell people that [DLC founder and CEO Al] From has moved the DLC past Clinton and is developing new talent," says a DLC staffer.
In the wake of a recent speaking engagement, rumors persist that Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta will be retiring shortly.
In late April he appeared at a Washington conference and spoke from a wheelchair. Word of the event did not spread because it was closed to the press. For months Mineta has been spending time at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for a chronic back problem that has required surgery at least twice.
"The poor guy is in good shape, he just can't stand for very long," says a Department of Transportation staffer, who added that Mineta has been undergoing rehab and that the rehab has been going well. "He does walk around."
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