Washington Prowler

Kerry Nation

Democratic leftward drift favors the Massachusetts senator. But where does that leave Terry McAuliffe?

By 11.20.02

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SHRUM SERVICE
Rumor in Washington has Democratic über political consultant Bob Shrum jumping off the presidential bandwagon of Sen. John Edwards, and hopping on board that of Sen. John Kerry. There is no apparent rift, but some insiders posit that Shrum feels less comfortable shaping a faux-centrist campaign like the one Edwards will have to run in 2004, and more comfortable with the standard liberal Democratic dogma of Kerry.

"There was probably going to be some moving about by advisers as things shook out a bit after the election," says a Democratic consultant in Washington. "Then we got hammered, and there seemed to be a real shift in opinion that Democrats were going to have to move left and make a stand. Kerry is in good position to do that."

Shrum was a key player in the later years of the Clinton White House, advising the president in some of his most politically tenuous days during impeachment proceedings. During the 2000 presidential runup, Shrum was the most vocal Gore adviser pushing the candidate to pick Edwards as his running mate. But of the prospective presidential candidates, Kerry may be in the best position for some big momentum in the coming months. He's contracted with historian and Jimmy Carter biographer Douglas Brinkley, who'll write a biography of sorts on Kerry's experiences in Vietnam. And Kerry is expected to be a far more vocal critic of the Bush administration in his senior position in the Senate.

LEFTIST LOCK
Over in the House, where Democratic candidates recruited by outgoing Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Nita Lowey were a disaster, the minority party seems dedicated to pushing itself further and further to the left.

Instead of seeking a respected moderate to recruit candidates who might be palatable to the middle of the road undecided voter, the Democratic caucus is going to choose between Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey and Louisiana Rep. Bill Jefferson to run the DCCC next go round.

Both are vocal lefties on almost all issues. Jefferson, who is African-American, is seen as preferential to Markey, in part because he is a new face and it would give the Congressional Black Caucus a seat at the leadership table.

"But there is no way that either of those guys helps the party woo moderates," says a DCCC staffer. "Lowey went after liberals who tried to play at being moderate and it failed because the voters seemed to understand they were liberals. Now it just seems we're going to recruit more of the same."

JACKSON'S HOLE
Former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson has quietly begun speaking to influential Democrats in Washington and elsewhere to measure whether to mount a new challenge to current Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe when the DNC's executive board meets in February. The New York Times reported last week that Jackson, who squared off against McAuliffe for control of the DNC in 2001, had sent a letter to McAuliffe demanding a meeting of the DNC board where McAuliffe could explain the Democrats' recent defeat.

Jackson had challenged McAuliffe a year ago on the grounds that the Clinton money man was too focused on money, not on building up a grassroots party and paying attention to the Democratic base. As it turns out, Jackson was probably right. In this election cycle, McAuliffe raised lots of dough and spent lots of dough. But not much was spent on the party's high profile black candidates, such as New York gubernatorial challenger Carl McCall. Now Jackson has reached out to some politicos who might hold a grudge against McAuliffe, like, say, Al Gore and John Kerry, both of whom stand to lose out in DNC support with McAuliffe controlling many of the party's national operations. At least that is what some DNC insiders think.

"People like Gore and Kerry see McAuliffe as a Clinton guy, a Gephardt guy, and this concerns them going into the 2004 election cycle," says a DNC staffer. "I don't think Terry cares who the presidential candidate is as long as that person is the strongest candidate."

Jackson, however, doesn't care about 2004. He cares about beating McAuliffe now. So any support he can muster from the perceived party elites would help him in that regard. If Jackson were to mount a challenge to McAuliffe, insiders say the only way he could win is if McAuliffe lets him.

"If he sees the DNC chairmanship as a no-win situation, and that he can do more good and have more fun working for one candidate in 2004, then McAuliffe could just let Jackson win," says the DNC source. "But I don't see that happening. If Terry has been sincere in what he's been saying the past couple of weeks, he stays and Jackson goes home. "

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