Carville, not McAuliffe

Robert Novak
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Posted: Sep 13, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Democrats received in the mail this week another appeal for contributions to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that was not signed by Chairman Terry McAuliffe. This letter bore the signature of consultant and television commentator James Carville.

When this column reported surprise by donors that recent DNC appeals did not contain the controversial McAuliffe's name, he demanded a "retraction." His aides contended the chairman had signed more such letters than any predecessor.

However, last week's appeal for "the Democratic Party's 2004 victory campaign" was signed by Carville, who holds no party position. The letterhead consists of "James Carville" in bold letters, with this small-type disclosure at the bottom of the letter: "Paid for by the Democratic National Committee." The reply envelope is addressed to the DNC.

ADVICE FROM THE CLINTONS

Hillary and Bill Clinton, responding to growing speculation, advised a longtime Iowa supporter this week that under no conditions would the senator run for president in 2004.

The supporter, who has committed to Sen. John Kerry for 2004, personally asked the former president about renewed talk that his wife would enter the race. Bill Clinton said that would not happen. That was confirmed in a separate chat with Hillary Clinton.

Hillary-for-president talk was revived by fear engendered among some Democrats that Howard Dean may become the presidential nominee. Sen. Clinton leads all possible candidates in Democratic preference polls and runs best against President Bush.

HOUSE REBELLION?

Rank-and-file conservative Republicans in the House are privately grumbling they get no support from the White House and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to control runaway spending.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is reported by colleagues to believe President Bush's spending requests are too high. So far, House leaders have not taken the bold step of trying to under-spend the administration. However, the president's public exhortations about spending restraint irritate conservatives on the Hill.

A footnote: Democrats want to use the president's $87 billion war spending request to push for still higher domestic outlays. The two most senior Democratic senators, Robert Byrd and Edward M. Kennedy, are leading that effort. Both vigorously opposed the original Iraqi war resolution.

EDWARDS'S SENATE EXIT

Sen. John Edwards's decision to concentrate on his uphill race for president by announcing he would not seek a second term in the Senate next year in North Carolina cheered national Democratic strategists who were beginning to write off the seat.

Republican strategists agree that former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles is a tougher opponent than Edwards for Republican Rep. Richard Burr. Bowles was decisively defeated for the Senate last year by Elizabeth Dole, but ran a good campaign and is eager for a second chance.

Bowles could face a serious Democratic primary election challenge from former State Rep. Dan Blue, who is an African-American. Burr is unopposed for the Republican nomination.

ALASKAN DEFECTIONS

Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, president pro tem of the Senate and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, evoked surprise Wednesday when he joined liberal Republican defectors to defeat the Bush administration's overtime wage reforms, 54 to 45.

As the Senate's senior Republican, Stevens has been a dependable vote for President Bush. However, Alaska is a heavily unionized state, and organized labor aggressively lobbied the administration's efforts to exempt more white-collar workers from overtime wage coverage. Stevens's junior colleague from Alaska -- appointive Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who faces a tough battle for election next year -- also voted against the change in the Wage and Hour Act.

The defections by the Alaskans did not affect the vote's outcome. Pro-union Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voted against the president. So did Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, who is up for re-election in 2004. Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia was the only Democrat to vote the other way.