WASHINGTON -- George W. Bush's previously unannounced visit to Riverside County, Calif., this weekend sent two messages: the post-Sept. 11 moratorium on politics is over, and he has not given up on the nation's most populous state.
The cross-continental political mission reassured Republican politicians who fear President Bush will sit out the 2002 mid-term elections as he did the 2001 off-year contests. He also showed he still hopes to carry California in 2004. While he visited the state only once during his first year as president, he has several such trips planned this year.
A footnote: Although Bush's political agents have cooled their original ardor for former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan's campaign against Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, they have not written him off. Riordan, who seems a dysfunctional candidate to the GOP professionals, narrowly leads Davis in several polls.
BLOCKING DASCHLE'S DOUBLE
South Dakota Republicans, privately urged on by Gov. Bill Janklow, are drafting legislation to prevent Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle from running in 2004 for both the Senate and president.
Present South Dakota law has been interpreted as permitting Daschle to seek both offices, as Lyndon B. Johnson and Joseph Lieberman ran for the Senate and vice president in the same year. Janklow's maneuvers against Daschle contrast with his good personal relationship with the senator, but South Dakota insiders believe the governor wants to run for the Senate in 2004.
The 62-year-old Janklow has been a powerful statewide vote-getter since 1978. He has said he may run for the House this year if needed to block former Sen. Larry Pressler, an intraparty foe, from going back to Congress.
Republican insiders envision an escape route from ethical challenges facing former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, President Bush's selection as the party's next national chairman: gradually end his federal registration as lobbyist for large business organizations while he remains with the lobbying firm.
Racicot has announced he will forego his $150,000 annual salary as chairman of the Republican National Committee but keep his seven-figure income as a partner in the Bracewell & Patterson law firm. Sources say he will end most of his formal lobbyist connections, letting his federal registrations lapse.
However, Racicot is not pledging to give up lobbying, and has informed the White House that he will register whenever he does any lobbying.
ABRAHAM GOING NUCLEAR
The unannounced, highly unusual appearance by Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham at a Las Vegas hearing Dec. 12 has raised hopes in the nuclear industry that this winter he will rule in favor of burying the nation's radioactive waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.
Abraham stressed that he had made no decision about safety at Yucca. If he were against Yucca, industry sources claim, he would not have turned up at the last public hearing on the proposed nuclear repository.
Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid of Nevada has vowed that the Yucca site never will be approved with the Democrats in control of the Senate.
DOLLARS FOR JEB
Top Republican lobbyists in Washington, who took life easy over the holidays, are desperately trying to make a success of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's big Washington fund-raiser Jan. 9.
The event for re-election of the president's brother at the Capital Hilton is supposed to raise $3 million to $4 million (with a $500-a-person cocktail reception and a $10,000-a-couple dinner). The event was originally scheduled for Nov. 28, but President Bush's friends did not make good use of the postponement to sell high-priced tickets. They have had to hustle since the first of the year.
A footnote: The Bush operation's push to help the Florida governor came at a time when the capital's fund-raisers were busy fulfilling a White House order to collect $1 million for Rep. John Thune's South Dakota Senate campaign. President Bush talked Thune into challenging the well-financed Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson.