ON THE SPOT IN FLORIDA
In the wake of the Florida Democratic Party convention last weekend, national party chairman Terry McAuliffe returned to Washington telling colleagues that he saw little hope for Democrats beating Jeb Bush in Florida. This, after McAuliffe watched the performances of Democratic gubernatorial candidates Bill McBride and Janet Reno. “He thought they both looked mediocre, and this event was designed to rally the ground troops to win the big one down here,” says a Florida Democratic Party board member. “Neither inspired confidence that we can beat Jeb.”
McAuliffe’s downbeat take on the Sunshine State, though, has to be weighed against his enthusiasm for his party’s national chances down the road. Attendees in Florida reported that presidential hopefuls Sens. John Kerry, John Edwards, Joseph Lieberman and even Christopher Dodd all performed well. What’s more, each spent time politicking with the grass roots folks.
The same cannot be said for Al Gore, who spent little to no time with state party officials, angering many who expected him to use the weekend to try to reconnect with people who felt he let them down last year during the great recount fight. “Maybe he just doesn’t want to relive it,” says a delegate to the state event. “He just didn’t seem interested in spending more time here than he absolutely had to.”
Clearly, though, Gore saw the Florida convention as a tool to get him back in the campaign groove. Sporting a new hairstyle designed to cover up an ever larger bald spot in the center of his head (“It kind of looked like a modified combover from front to back,” says one convention attendee), Gore rallied the troops, but also made sure his performance was picture perfect. “We videotaped it and we’ll be sending it out to donors around the country to let them see for themselves that Mr. Gore is ready to roll,” says a Gore staffer.
The donor angle appears to be Gore’s prime concern right now. New quarterly fundraising reports show that he was outgained by Joe Lieberman and John Edwards, not to mention John Kerry and House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt (if amounts each raised for his elections coffers and various PACs are combined).
“We’ll get our money, that’s not an issue,” says the Gore staffer. “What’s important is that Mr. Gore is helping many other Democrats raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for their campaigns all across America. We’ll focus on ourselves after 2002. Then we’ll see who’s raking it in.”
AN INTIMATE REUNION
It was politics and canapés on the verandah last week when Hillary Rodham Clinton hosted some of her husband’s old friends at her home in Washington. And the big surprise was … Bill was actually there, answering the door and welcoming the likes of Democratic bigwig Al From, former chief of staff John Podesta and former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger.
“They weren’t expecting Bill,” says one former Clinton staffer. “He thought it would be a nice surprise. He hadn’t seen some of the gang in a while.”
The substance of what was talked about isn’t known, although the 2002 and 2004 elections did come up. “How could they not with Clinton there,” says the former staffer. “Politics is one of the top two or three things he loves to talk about. And the other two he probably can’t discuss in front of Hillary.”