Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Veterans of Al Gore's 2000 campaign see a clear resemblance between his decision-making process in the Howard Dean endorsement and the way he prepared for his first presidential debate with George W. Bush.

In each case, Gore kept his own counsel and did not inform advisers (with the probable exception of his daughter Karenna). Critical 2000 campaign veterans contend that this isolation led to faulty tactics in the debate and to a questionable decision in the recent endorsement.

Gore's seclusion and desire for complete secrecy led to the aspect of Dean's endorsement that produced the most criticism in Democratic Party circles: failure to give advance notice to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Gore's 2000 running mate, as well as Rep. Richard Gephardt and Sen. John Kerry, both of whom had vigorously supported Gore's contested presidential nomination.

A DEMOCRATIC CHENEY?

Influential Democrats in Washington and in the South are privately talking about former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia as vice presidential nominee in 2004 no matter who is picked for president.

Nunn, who served 24 years in the Senate ending in 1997, is seen by the increasingly small number of white southern Democrats in Congress as a conservative ballast to any national ticket that might coax Southerners back to their ancestral party.

In addition, Nunn is viewed by his supporters as a Democratic version of Dick Cheney. He is an older hand (now 65 years old) with no presidential ambitions who has strong national security credentials (as Senate Armed Services Committee chairman).

THE VP'S STAFF

Vice President Dick Cheney's choice as his new counselor of Kathleen Shanahan, now leaving her post as Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's chief of staff, "is foundering on a title" (in the words of one Republican insider).

Veteran GOP operative Shanahan has demanded that, like departed Cheney aide Mary Matalin, she receive the dual title of special assistant to President Bush. Failure to agree to this has stalled the hiring of Shanahan, who was Cheney's chief of staff during the 2000 campaign.

A footnote: Kevin Kellems has moved from the Pentagon to become the vice president's press secretary, and Brenda Becker is about to leave the Commerce Department to head Cheney's congressional liaison. Shanahan, Kellems and Becker all lack extensive campaign experience, confirming the belief that Cheney is not looking ahead to a 2008 presidential run.

SOUTH CAROLINA COMEBACK


Robert Novak

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

 
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