Robert Novak
Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe inexplicably delayed announcing the selection of Boston for the party's 2004 national convention when early disclosure might have helped Democratic chances in Massachusetts Nov. 5. WASHINGTON - The decision for Boston was made more than three weeks before McAuliffe's post-election announcement. Party insiders wonder whether announcing it then might have helped Democrat Shannon O'Brien's losing race for governor of Massachusetts against Republican Mitt Romney. A footnote: Tampa appears to be in front to be the Republican convention site, but GOP officials say New York and New Orleans are still in the running. The decision is being made strictly on a business basis of which city provides the best deal, without political considerations. BUSH'S LOST OPPORTUNITY Amid all of George W. Bush's mid-term election triumphs, veteran Republican and Democratic politicians in California agreed that the president missed an opportunity when he did not visit the state just before the election to campaign against Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. Davis's surprisingly narrow re-election over Republican Bill Simon by six percentage points led hostile Democrats to speculate that Davis might have been denied a second term had either the campaign lasted another two weeks or Bush helped. The president was urged to stay out by his California advisers. A footnote: Davis's unimpressive performance against a novice candidate and a flawed Republican campaign is believed to have ended his presidential hopes for 2004. The governor also faces the near certainty of raising taxes to deal with the state's unresolved budget crisis. THE SPEAKER'S LASH House Speaker Dennis Hastert's surprise move Thursday in the House Republican conference that imposed leadership control over the House Appropriations Committee was aimed at both staffers and subcommittee chairmen. The heads of the appropriating subcommittees (commonly called "The Cardinals") no longer will be picked strictly by seniority but will be subject to review by the Hastert-controlled Republican Steering Committee. That was intended to clip the wings of James Dyer, the powerful Appropriations Committee staff director who often defies the GOP leadership. The Cardinal whose chairmanship could be ended by the change is Rep. Ralph Regula, a 15-term veteran from Ohio who heads the important Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee. Republican leaders were furious this year when Regula, representing a safe district, refused to support President Bush's request for trade negotiating authority. That forced the party whips to get a vote from Rep. Robin Hayes of North Carolina, which endangered his re-election though he wound up winning Nov. 5. GETTING NANCY READY Democratic insiders worry less about Rep. Nancy Pelosi swerving to the left as the party's new House leader than her stumbling performances on television. She is being privately coached to fulfill new demands for interviews. As a San Francisco Democratic power broker that included service as California's state party chairman, Pelosi has been mainly a backroom fund-raiser rather than a pronouncer of policy. When she became House whip last year and appeared more frequently on television, she delivered set speeches when asked a question. A footnote: Pelosi led all House Democrats in raising money for colleagues and leading challengers for Republican House seats. Her opponent for the leadership, Rep. Harold Ford of Tennessee, raised almost no money. GOODBYE TO FRITZ? Sen. Ernest (Fritz) Hollings, South Carolina's junior senator for 36 years prior to his senior colleague Sen. Strom Thurmond's retirement at the end of this year, may choose to enjoy his senior status for only two more years. South Carolina Democratic State Chairman Richard Harpootlian is making assurances that Hollings, the state's lone prominent elected Democrat still remaining, will seek another term in 2004. But his political friends doubt that the 80-year-old senator will want to buck the state's Republican tide. Analysis of this year's GOP sweep in South Carolina shows the problem for Democrats is not a weak African-American turnout but overwhelming white rural and suburban voting. That poses ominous prospects for Hollings.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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