The George W. Bush fundraising machine has vacuumed up a record $100 million in the first six months of 2002, much of it in so-called soft money. But will it be enough to win control of Congress? Top White House political strategists expect the GOP will face an onslaught of $125 million or more in under-the-radar political spending by labor unions and liberal-friendly causes.
A formerly confidential GOP Power Point presentation-"The 2002 Challenge"-is now floating around Washington after being found on a computer disk on a street corner near the White House. It warns the GOP could be in more trouble than previously believed. Senior Bush aide Karl Rove and White House political director Ken Mehlman developed the presentation, which lays out the political landscape and the party's perceived strengths and weaknesses heading into the fall.
No Republican operative has publicly confessed to losing the disk, but Democrats are doing lots of talking: "Secret White House analysis by President Bush's top political gurus shows what we Democrats have known all along," boasts Bob Poe, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. Mr. Poe is especially happy because the finders-keepers data suggests Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, among others, is more vulnerable than public polls show.
Concerned that the party have every dollar possible to compete effectively in the fall, the president is delegating a lot of the work. Deeply engaged in the effort are Vice President Dick Cheney, Lynne Cheney, leading members of Congress, numerous Cabinet secretaries, and senior GOP fundraising advisers Haley Barbour and Ted Welch.
Bored, frustrated, and increasingly unpopular, Jesse Ventura is throwing in the towel. The colorful, controversial Minnesota governor announced he's giving up politics and refusing to run for a second term. Republicans and Democrats are scrambling to compete aggressively for the newly opened governorship (the candidate filing deadline is July 16), but Gov. Ventura's Independent Party may not give up without a fight. They are courting former Minnesota Rep. Tim Penny, a conservative Democrat, to run in the governor's place.
The White House rolls out the red carpet to host a state dinner next month for Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. The July 17-18 events mark only the second formal state visit hosted by President Bush since taking office. Mexican President Vicente Fox was feted by Bush last September. As there is no urgently pressing business between the United States and Poland, and the trip comes closely on the heels of Bush's meeting with the pope, the Beltway buzz is that the visit is part of the White House's strategy to court Catholic voters heading into the fall elections
The latest indication Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is gearing up to run for president: He bought the Internet domain names www.kerry2004.com and www.kerry2008.com. He's running for reelection this fall, so his only likely 2004 campaign would be for president. David Wade, Mr. Kerry's communications director, tells Roll Call the senator and his team want to "prevent a cybersquatter from holding our campaign hostage for a big payday," though he declined to confirm any final presidential campaign decision has been made.
ABC News' Sunday morning newsmaker program This Week needed shaking up. So network executives named George Stephanopoulos the sole new host of the show. Conservative commentator George Will remains as a political analyst on the show. Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts are out. The former senior Clinton-Gore adviser will make a reported $1 million a year with ABC when his deal takes effect this fall, but his show trails NBC's Meet the Press by more than a million viewers a week.