Washington Prowler

The Aloha Kid

Bill Clinton's new motto: You pay, you lose. Also: Bill Frist's bill comes due. Also: President Di-Fi.

By 11.17.02

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YOU PAY, YOU LOSE
Ex-President Bill Clinton couldn't have been happy with the thumping his party took on November 5. But he certainly didn't take it as hard as many of his Democratic colleagues who were fighting for their jobs. To be sure, Clinton campaigned for many Democrats, but on his terms.

Now that the election is over, some of Clinton's travels are coming to light. Take Hawaii, normally not a state where national figures venture given the costs and risk entailed in appearing in a distant locale that above all evokes luxury vacations, boondoggles and the like. But Hawaii had a tight gubernatorial race going, with Republican former Maui Mayor Linda Lingle running neck and neck with Democratic Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono. This left the Hawaii Government Employees Association worried that their traditionally Democratic state was shifting. So they invited Clinton to rally the troops. The HGEA covered all of the expenses for Clinton and his entourage.

"It was classic Clinton," says a DNC staffer. "He hit Honolulu, did his usual shtick and then bolted."

In all, HGEA staffers estimate that Clinton campaigned for Democrats for about four hours, while he played better than a day's worth of golf, also on the HGEA's dime. What bang did it get for its buck? Republican Lingle beat Democrat Hirono by five percentage points.

FRIST IN FINANCE
Some in the Senate were surprised that Sen. Bill Frist, coming off one of the great political success in recent memory, would walk away from his post as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. But Frist has his eye on bigger prizes, and after playing a pivotal role in the GOP's retaking of the Senate, he's looking to tackle policy.

Look for Frist to be rewarded for his hard work with a seat on the Finance Committee, where his state's senior Senator, Fred Thompson, held a seat. From that perch, Frist will most likely become the Republican poster boy for prescription drug plans and health care reform, two issues the surgeon from Tennessee knows intimately and feels passionate about.

Hill insiders say that Frist holds out little hope of ending up on the bottom of the Republican presidential ticket in 2004. Rather, he's positioning himself as a presidential candidate in 2008, when it's doubtful the Republicans will have a vice president looking to take the top job.

DARK HORSE DI-FI
With the Democrats down on their luck, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton continuing to balk at a presidential run in 2004, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is mulling whether she should throw her bonnet into the ring. It's not that far-fetched an idea. She's more moderate than many of her California congressional colleagues, has a vast fundraising rolodex, and as probably the only woman in the 2004 race would become a natural media darling. Résumé-wise, she's got more experience than Hillary and John Edwards combined.

"She's always been known as a kind of moderate, but she's swung way to the left the last couple of years," says a Republicans staffer on the Judiciary Committee, where Feinstein sits. "You look at what she's done to some of the Bush nominees here and it's surprising. We thought more of her."

Feinstein has flirted with running in the past. She was mentioned as a vice presidential possibility by Al Gore in 2000, but never made the short list. And with Gray Davis's national political aspirations going up in flames faster than a dried out Southern California valley, Feinstein would be one of the few big-state Democrats positioned to mount a respectable early campaign.

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