Washington Prowler

Convention Wisdom

The parties prepare to go marchin' in. Plus: Clinton's sucker punches. Also: Bush's Big Green Machine.

By 7.30.02

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PARTY TOWNS
According to several Democratic National Committee sources, their boss Terry McAuliffe met and noshed with New York mayor Michael Bloomberg last week. The meal, no doubt an enjoyable one, was intended to give McAuliffe some sense of Bloomberg's willingness to host a Democratic Convention in his fair city in 2004.

"Terry knows that Bloomberg isn't your run of the mill, reactionary Republican," says one Democratic committee source. "He understands that Bloomberg is a Republican of convenience. We wouldn't be embarrassed to have our convention in his city, no embarrassing protests or public transportation problems. He wants the Democrats there. And that was the message McAuliffe heard."

The Republicans are looking at New York, too. But they also have other tempting options -- New Orleans and Tampa Bay -- to consider. Members of the site selection committee are said to be pushing for New Orleans. Members of the Florida press have been saying the White House would prefer Tampa, in part as a reward to Florida for helping Bush win, and perhaps to give him an extra bump going into the election.

"I think the White House is getting kind of sensitive about the 'Florida payback scenario,'" says an RNC staffer. "That gets thrown around an awful lot. Every time the president goes down there, it's payback. They aren't going to want to hear that term used during the convention just before another presidential election. My money is on New Orleans."

While the Dems are looking at Detroit and perhaps Boston or Miami, New York is increasingly appealing because of the underwriting the city would be willing to provide. New York is said to have offered to pick up more than $50 million of the cost of holding the event in the Big Apple. Detroit is said to have offered a bit less. Miami is the wild card. "What the city offers to cover is a big deal for us, but even if New York's numbers were less than others', it just makes sense. It has the celebrities, most of whom are Democrats, the media, the restaurants," says another DNC staffer. "And it allows us to have people like the Clintons center stage all the time, since they live there."

By that logic, expect Rev. Al Sharpton to hog the spotlight too.

SUCKER PUNCHER
Everyone was surprised by the critical comments former President Bill Clinton made over the weekend about the Bush administration's handling of the so-called crisis of confidence in corporate America, but according to one former Clinton source with knowledge of the ex-president's thinking, Clinton has been waiting for the right moment to sound off.

"I don't think President Clinton would ever do what he did last weekend in a public, prepared way, like in a speech or in a forum where there was lots of credentialed press and an audience. He understands the rule about presidents not criticizing their fellow presidents," says the source who worked in the Clinton White House during its second term.

But apparently Clinton views local TV interviews, such as the one last weekend in which he made his remarks, or impromptu press queries as offering a fair opportunity to sound off in a way that he wouldn't in more formal settings.

"Look, he has spent two weeks getting dumped on by Bush and his underlings for all this corporate crap when it wasn't his fault at all," says the source. "He should be allowed to hit back."

In fact, Bush has at times pointedly said that Clinton can't and shouldn't necessarily be blamed for the collapse in corporate confidence. That doesn't mean others aren't looking for a way to tar Clinton and his people. A source at the Treasury Department says Sec. Paul O'Neill intends to continue calling out former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin (as he did on last Sunday's "Meet the Press") until the current Wall Street big shot lets up on his comments about Bush and his Treasury policies.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN
The Bush cash wagon makes a stop this week in South Carolina, where the president is expected to bring in more than $1 million for the state party and gubernatorial candidate Mark Sanford. Tickets for the speech Bush is expected to make run from $500 for lunch and a listen to $10,000 for a pre-lunch, private meet and greet that would include a picture with the prez.

"He's been consistently pulling in more than $1 million everywhere he goes," says an RNC source. "It's amazing what the president has been able to do."

As the Prowler has noted, it'll be even more amazing if Bush's checkbook coattails translate into electoral coattails.

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