NO FIGHT LEFT
Senator Orrin Hatch has asked the Bush administration to withdraw the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to a federal appeals court. Pickering had to endure several days of blistering attacks by liberal Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, including a now-infamous interrogation by presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards. A vote on Pickering was scheduled for last week and was delayed at Hatch’s request. “Pickering won’t make it out, it’s probably 10-9 to defeat,” says a Hatch aide. “We’d rather have the White House pull him or have Pickering withdraw himself.”
Pickering is a long-time friend of Republican leader Trent Lott. It was Lott who pressed the White House to nominate Pickering, and it is Lott, according to one member of his staff, who is pressing the White House to fight harder for Pickering’s job.
“They could have done a better job of setting him up to win,” says the Lott aide. “They’ve hung Judge Pickering out to dry and he deserved better.”
Yet according to the Hatch aide and several Republican Judiciary Committee staff members, Lott did little to prep his side of the aisle for Pickering’s nomination fight. This, even though the NAACP had listed Pickering as its No. 1 target in the first round of judicial nominations made by Bush.
“This whole thing was a clusterf–k from the get-go,” says another Republican Judiciary staffer. “I feel sorry for Pickering, but his friends didn’t do him any great shakes in this fight.”
RUDY AND RICE
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani would only smile when well-wishers in Washington asked him last week if he’d consider running for vice president with President Bush in 2004. His reticence shows how savvy Giuliani has become in the past few years. “Back in 1998, he might have said, ‘Sure!'” says a Republican political consultant. Still, Republicans at the event couldn’t help but notice the fervor for Giuliani as he walked through the crowd. “He’s a rock star,” says the consultant.
But Giuliani, who was in town as the keynote speaker at the National Republican Congressional Committee’s fund-raising dinner, isn’t necessarily angling for the No. 2 seat in 2004, nor is the White House looking to replace Dick Cheney any time soon.
The Republican Party is another thing altogether. According to an policy analyst at the Republican National Committee, the RNC, with some input from the White House, has run some polling on “popular” Republicans in the hopes of getting a handle on which prominent Republicans might best balance a Bush ticket if Cheney decides not to go a second four years. “The winner was kind of surprising,” says the source. “Condoleezza Rice.”
Cheney and Giuliani both fared well in these loose surveys, but among certain demographic groups Rice was rated as more “trusted.” She also rated better than the men when words like “warm” and “caring” were used.
“She’s going to be a big part of what happens over the next couple of years, but no one knows how’d she’d handle a purely political environment,” says the RNC source. “She’s never been exposed to it the way Bush or Cheney or Giuliani or even Colin Powell have been exposed. She’s an unknown. Still, all of her positives can’t be denied.”
WHO WILL VOLUNTEER?
Thinking ahead, Sen. Bill Frist had held several meetings with former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander in the past two months about filling the seat now held be retiring Sen. Fred Thompson. Alexander has been noncommittal, but Republicans in the Senate expect that if the party asks him to run, he will do so.
No one is surprised by the news of Thompson’s decision to retire. As reported by the Prowler last spring, the senior senator from Tennessee was doing next to no fundraising back home, and has kept an increasingly low profile. In the aftermath of 9/11 he turned down a number of requests for media appearances.
“This has been brewing for more than a year,” says a Thompson aide. “He’s been thinking about this for a long time. It has nothing to with Washington or anything in his private life. He just wants to move on to other things.”
Almost a year ago, rumors were swirling through Washington that Thompson was in line to take over Jack Valenti‘s job as chief lobbyist of the Motion Picture Arts Association. Valenti has given no indication he plans to retire.
Should Alexander choose not to run for Thompson’s seat, Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan, a seven-term, conservative Republican out of the Knoxville area would be the most logical House member to consider a run.