House Whip Tom DeLay wants Karl Rove to push White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card out the door. And pronto.
DeLay's anger at Card, according to House leadership sources, has been growing exponentially over the months as he has watched Card play footsie with House and Senate Democrats. "Card has been wooing people like Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, trying to draw them over to our side on budget issues and Homeland Security," says a leadership aide. "But it isn't working. At least on our side of the Hill, we can do just about anything we want because we have the majority. Why waste time with bipartisanship if we can just get it done?"
House conservatives have been feeling slighted of late, in part because they can get the Homeland and budget legislation passed with comparative ease. "We move the Bush agenda forward and the White House spends all its time on the Senate. No pat on the back, no thank you," says a Republican congressman, sounding like a hurt schoolgirl.
"It's true, we've had to focus more energy and more time on the Senate and Democrats, because we need them on board to get stuff done legislatively," says a White House staffer who does liaison work on Capitol Hill. "If we don't have some Democrats on board in the Senate, we don't have any movement with bills."
Republicans feel that Card could do more to direct some love their way, instead of wasting so much time with Democrats. What apparently set off DeLay most recently was a comment by Card that Gephardt was doing what he could with his caucus for the administration on the Homeland Security front. "That's B.S.," says the leadership staffer. "Gephardt isn't doing squat. If that's the spin Card is giving the President, then he's giving him bad intelligence."
DeLay, House Republican leadership staffers say, has made it clear to Rove that Card is not a man he feels comfortable dealing with and would prefer someone more conservative in the chief of staff position. One name that has popped up: current director of the Office of Management and Budget Mitch Daniels.
WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT
According to an adviser to Al Gore, the former vice president has locked in on the man he views as his main competition for the 2004 Democratic nomination, and it isn't John Kerry or Tom Daschle. It's John Edwards -- but not because Edwards is viewed as the most imposing threat to Gore's 800-pound gorilla status. It's because Edwards, either willfully or not, seems to be cultivating and drawing Gore supporters wherever he goes.
While Gore met with backers in Memphis, Edwards's own retreat with donors and supporters in South Carolina last weekend was hosted by former Gore financial backers. In Iowa, Edwards is bringing on board a number of former Gore supporters and organizers, and in New Hampshire recently, Edwards was connected at the hip, politically speaking, to state Sen. Caroline McCarley, who was a key supporter and state organizer for Gore in 2000.
"We aren't trying to cherry pick Gore's people," says an Edwards adviser. "But what are Gore's people? He was the party candidate in 2000. Apparently, if you go by Gore's definition, every Democrat in the country was a Gore person. Using that criteria, we'd be left with no one."
"In the political arena, John Edwards barely registers among Democratic voters across the country," says the Gore adviser. "For voters, Lieberman, Kerry and Gephardt probably are more serious threats to Gore's standing and presidential aspirations. Edwards is a flavor of the month. The problem with him is that he's peeling off ground troops we would count on in some of the early primaries and caucuses in New Hampshire and Iowa And that's just a headache."
But not a debilitating headache. Gore's people remain confident that a mix of strong-armed tactics and political promises will bring the turncoats back into the fold.
CARRYING THE DAY
With every Democrat from Al Gore to John Edwards to Dick Gephardt holding retreats and seminars and hand-holding sessions to better get to know donors and the size of their wallets, and telling people they are the one to beat President George W. Bush in 2004, it's no surprise that Republicans are hitting back.
Bush has a heavy domestic travel schedule in the next ten days, from West Virginia to Ohio to Wisconsin, and plans to hit just every state important to Republicans in the coming months at least twice before October. "We'll be everywhere we have to be," says a White House political staffer. "The Democrats can send out all kinds of presidential wannabes. We have the real thing, and that counts for something."
And speaking of counting, the RNC, in conjunction with its state party apparatus, is starting to trickle out polling numbers that make GOPers feel awfully good even if the numbers won't mean a thing a year or two from now. Over the weekend, a few Southern state parties released polling data designed to embarrass local pols who think they can knock off the GOP leader.
In North Carolina, native son Edwards wants to challenge Bush? He'd lose the Tarheel State by almost 20 points -- 59 percent to 40 percent. Deeper south, Edwards fares even worse, losing in Georgia by a whopping 42 percent. Gore? He'd again lose his home state, Tennessee, but this time by 25 percentage points.
Some Republican pollsters think that Gore at the top of the Democratic ticket in 2004 would lose as many as 40 states, a huge swing compared to the nailbiter in 2000. "For all the talk Gore is doing, there aren't a lot of people who seem interested in seeing him run again," says a Republican pollster in California. "These numbers are way too early, but it gives the Bush people something to look at and set the bar at for the coming two years."
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