Washington Prowler

Grudge Reports

Blue comes through (sort of) for Bowles. Leahy pushes Strom over the side. Also: Midas Bush.

By 10.10.02

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TRUE BLUE
So much for trying to be ahead of the news. No sooner does The Prowler tee off once again on Erskine Bowles's seeming inability to bring former Democratic opponent Dan Blue to endorse him than Blue sends out an e-mail that indicates he's endorsing Bowles. Or he may not.

Tuesday evening, Blue's staff e-mailed to Democratic supporters and the press a message that read, in part, "I have spoken with Erskine Bowles several times since the primary about his potential service in Washington. Erskine has the opportunity to preserve the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate and I support that effort wholeheartedly. For that reason, I have offered him my endorsement."

According to a Blue adviser in Charlotte, Blue declined an opportunity to appear with Bowles to make the endorsement in person, although both camps are said to be negotiating possible joint appearances. "Blue didn't want to make this endorsement, but Bowles is in trouble," says the Blue adviser. "The party owes Dan big time for putting this out when he did."

At best it can be said that Blue's endorsement is grudging. And there is still the matter of whether Blue's supporters will back Bowles wholeheartedly. As reported yesterday, the NCAE, the state's influential education lobby, which is basically resides in the pocket of the state Democratic Party, has thus far balked at endorsing Bowles after backing Blue in the primary. If it remains on the sidelines, it will be blow to the Democrat. As well, Blue, an African-American, may not be willing to campaign heavily among base constituents, seen as key if Bowles is to have a chance next month.

THE NEW SHAMELESSNESS
It was perhaps one of the saddest and shameful moments in recent Senate history. Strom Thurmond, 99, frail but still feisty, looking his longtime colleague, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy in the eye and saying, "You gave me your word."

Said Thurmond. "Mr. Chairman, this is probably my last appearance before this committee. At this time, I ask that the nomination of Dennis Shedd to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals be favorably reported."

This, after Leahy apparently told Thurmond and his staff about the committee's agenda for the day. According to Thurmond, Leahy and the Judiciary Committee staff had promised that the nomination of Shedd, a former Thurmond staffer nominated by President Bush last May, would be considered by the committee on Tuesday. But on Monday, Leahy told Thurmond that Shedd would not appear on the agenda, seemingly dooming Shedd's nomination unless the Bush administration presses ahead to place him on the court this winter. Instead of dealing with Shedd during the one hour meeting, Leahy wanted to consider other "noncontroversial" nominations. Leahy did not dispute that he had promised Thurmond the committee would take up Shedd's nomination. He simply changed his mind. "In my 48 years in the United States Senate, I have never been treated in such a manner," Thurmond told Leahy. "I am hurt and disappointed by your action."

Republicans on the committee attempted to put Shedd on the agenda, but the vote failed 9-9 when Sen. Joe Biden abstained. An irate Sen. Orrin Hatch lashed out at Leahy, calling his action "the dirtiest trick" he'd ever seen. "What's really disturbing is that this was the last request of Strom Thurmond," Hatch said.

Much in the same fashion that Democrats have lately sunk other Bush judicial nominees, Leahy used his influence from the chairman's seat to control the committee, line up his liberal colleagues and block Shedd. "There was never a doubt that Shedd wasn't going to make it," says a Democratic Judiciary Committee staffer. "Leahy didn't want him, the NAACP didn't want him, Edwards didn't want him."

That's Sen. John Edwards, who is some ways has become the 800-pound gorilla on the Judiciary Committee. He was the most vocal opponent of Shedd. "He can afford to be outspoken and take the hardline decision," says the staffer. "He's a lawyer, he's got solid political support. His base is looking to him to do this kind of thing."

Leahy claimed that his office inundated with letters from South Carolina minority groups, including the NAACP, complaining about Shedd nomination. He cited those letters as one reason he determined Shedd's nomination was too controversial.

ONE IN A MILLION
Call him "Million Dollar W," because apparently that's the added value President Bush brings whenever he stops in your hometown. While total campaign fundraising numbers won't be official for another month or so, it's expected that Bush will break the bank when it comes to fundraising for Republicans. Earlier this week, after several stops in Tennessee, Bush left Lamar Alexander and gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary with yet another pile of money, a bit more than $1 million.

Bush has helped the Tennessee Republicans pull in at least another $2 million in the past several months as that state's congressional delegation took on greater meaning with the ever-shifting national poll numbers. Alexander's winning the Republican-held Senate seat is seen as crucial to the GOP's at the very least holding the status quo in the Senate in November.

With the exception of smaller states like New Hampshire, a Bush campaign appearance has almost always guaranteed Republican candidates a seven-figure take. "While he may not have coattails, he definitely has a hold on supporters' wallets," says a Republican National Committee staffer.

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