Robert Novak
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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

David Beasley, who appeared dead in Republican politics after his defeat for re-election as governor of South Carolina in 1998, has a chance to make a successful comeback in the 2004 election for the U.S. Senate seat relinquished by Democrat Ernest F. Hollings.

Rep. Jim DeMint is no longer the White House-anointed candidate, especially after his vote against the Medicare-prescription drugs bill pushed by President Bush. He now faces a tough Republican primary against not only former State Attorney General Charles Condon but Beasley as well.

Beasley got himself in trouble in 1996 by opposing gambling interests and trying to take down the Confederate flag from the state capitol dome. His standing among South Carolina Republicans was not helped when he won the Kennedy family's "Profile in Courage" award. Nevertheless, he starts ahead of both DeMint and Condon in statewide name identification.

JANKLOW FALLOUT

The conviction of Republican Rep. William Janklow for manslaughter could have the effect of easing re-election difficulties in South Dakota for Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle.

A reluctant former Rep. John Thune has been pressed by national Republican leaders to run against Daschle, and he had seemed to be coming closer to that decision. However, he may now run for the empty House seat in a special election after Janklow's resignation from Congress Jan. 20.

Stephanie Herseth, who nearly defeated the heavily favored Janklow in 2002, definitely will run in the special election. It may take Thune to defeat Herseth and keep the seat Republican.

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Robert Novak

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

 
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