Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Bill Clinton recently told Sen. John Kerry privately that it

now looked as though he and Gen. Wesley Clark were the only Democrats who could beat George W. Bush in the general election.

The former president based that assessment on the Gallup Poll, but made it appear it was his own opinion as well. That boosted the spirits of Kerry, who has slipped from his former front-running status for the Democratic nomination. However, Kerry lieutenants consider it to be Clinton soft soap that he probably is dispensing to other Democratic presidential aspirants.

A footnote: Kerry supporters are counting on Clark to take away enough votes in New Hampshire from former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean to enable the Massachusetts senator to win a primary election he cannot afford to lose.


California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger was so impressed by his Washington-based campaign consultant Mike Murphy that he has asked him to be his chief of staff in Sacramento. Murphy, who handled media and overall strategy, declined.

During the recall election campaign, Schwarzenegger often conferred with Murphy and Rep. David Dreier, chairman of the U.S. House Rules Committee. Dreier, who was Schwarzenegger's most effective campaign spokesman, heads the governor-elect's transition team.

A footnote: Conservative Republican State Sen. Tom McClintock did not end up on good terms with Schwarzenegger after finishing third in the election. Chances of a warm relationship between them in Sacramento faded when McClintock credited late, unsubstantiated reports that Schwarzenegger had been pro-Hitler by saying the actor should drop out of the campaign if those allegations were accurate.


Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic Whip who is becoming a master political broker, has pulled off a massive backroom deal. He won an aide's selection to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in return for releasing his previous blocks on nominations by President Bush.

The nuclear industry, which has contributed heavily to Bush's re-election campaign, was enraged by the president's selection of anti-nuclear physicist Gregory Jaczko. The White House had turned down Jaczko earlier in the year, but Reid asserted that he then would stop confirmation of all the president's nominations. Nuclear issues are important in Reid's state of Nevada, which has fought the administration's plans for a nuclear waste repository 100 miles from Las Vegas.

Robert Novak

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

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