Not Sounding Too Great - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Not Sounding Too Great

Rep. Chuck Rangel remains hopeful that one day he will serve as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. That possibility should be enough to guarantee Republicans control of Congress for the next generation.

But Rangel, as evidenced by his propaganda-laced performance recently on Meet the Press, can be an effective tool for his overlords at the DNC and in House leadership. That is why House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, under pressure from her liberal colleagues, is sending Rangel around the country to gun the engine on fear and insecurity among seniors over the Bush Administration’s prescription drug plan.

“The DNC loved what Rangel did on TV, and they want him out there more often,” says a House Democratic leadership staffer. “We don’t know what he’s going to say, but even if it fudges the facts, it always sounds great to our base.”

Pelosi is under increasing pressure from the party chieftains to mobilize her House minions on the campaign trail, but has been surprisingly hesitant to do so. Some tossed it up to her waiting for the Democratic presidential race to close out. But word came from the DNC that time was a’wastin’.

Rangel is known for basically saying anything and everything that pops into his head. On national television earlier this month, he insisted the President Bush had been AWOL from the National Guard, that there was no evidence he had ever served, and that the White House had never explained itself. When his House Democratic colleagues accused the President of possibly having advanced knowledge of the September 11 attacks, Rangel never disavowed them.

Another reason Rangel is being up front is his perceived strong relationship with former President Bill Clinton. Clinton’s Harlem offices are in Rangel’s congressional district, and Rangel was the most visible congressional backer of the short candidacy of Clinton stalking horse, Wesley Clark.

Campaign staff of Democratic presidential frontrunner Sen. John Kerry are growing increasingly concerned about their boy’s behavior on the stump. “He’s been flat now for about a week and a half,” says one staffer in New York. “We’re not sure why.”

On recent stops in Super Tuesday states like Ohio and Georgia, Kerry has been long-winded in his speeches, and less focused with his audiences.

Where a month ago, he was bringing supporters to their feet by just waving, now he’s lucky to get a strong round of applause from what used to be guaranteed applause lines from stump speeches.

“The scariest moments have been when he’s doing one of his Q&A sessions with folks,” says the staffer. “He’ll give this incredibly long-winded answer, then the people just sit there. No applause, no feedback, no nothing. And he just stands there. You can hear a pin drop. That’s not good in campaign settings.”

It isn’t just with the crowd. In what has become a famous incident on the campaign trail, a TV crew asked Kerry to comment on a specific issue, and the candidate gave such a complicated answer that the interviewer told Kerry staff they couldn’t use any of it for a soundbite. The staff gave Kerry a printed, two sentence quote, and then asked the crew to re-tape the segment.

“We’re seeing the Kerry of three months ago all over again,” says the staffer. “And a lot of us nervous about it. We’re going to show him some of the tape from the past few days. Maybe seeing how poorly he is performing will snap him out of it.”

Former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean is expected to meet with a number of his campaign volunteers tonight in New Haven, Conn., for dinner and a speech.

Earlier this week there were rumors he might use the occasion to endorse a presidential candidate, but Dean staffers say they have no expectation that Dean will make such a pronouncement. Instead, Dean is expected to outline the evolution of his campaign.

As The Prowler reported last week, Dean is looking to build on the online community and youth support he generated by turning his Dean For President operation into a progressive political operation, perhaps even a 527. According to a Dean insider, the former governor has already spoken to a number of congressional and state and local candidates of varied progressive stripes about supporting their candidacies.

Beyond his new organization, Dean is expected to continue talking to both Sen. John Kerry and Sen. John Edwards. Edwards is already using some former Dean staffers in states like Georgia and New York. In a number of Democratic circles, it was expected that Dean might actually endorse Edwards sooner rather than later.

Another school of thought says that Dean may yet endorse Edwards before Super Tuesday, depending on the latter’s showing in last night’s debate, and how poll numbers shake out today and on Sunday. “If it looks like Edwards has a real shot at winning a few Super Tuesday votes, Dean may jump onboard,” says an Edwards adviser. “We want his endorsement, but we sense he’s being cautious. He doesn’t want to repeat the mistake Al Gore made. And who can blame him for that?”

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