WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Strategists for Rep. Richard Gephardt's presidential candidacy are basing fragile hopes for the Democratic nomination on Howard Dean's money-rich campaign running out of funds as he contests every primary election.
Chances for anybody to catch Dean hinge on the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses. Polls show Dean ahead there but Gephardt within hailing distance. If Dean loses in Iowa or at least wins narrowly, his big war chest may be depleted by the heavy primary schedule ahead.
Gephardt will not seriously contest Dean in New Hampshire on Jan. 27, counting on Sen. John Kerry slowing him down there. Gephardt hopes to be the final challenger of Dean in the next wave of contests, with a chance to win in Michigan and South Carolina.
WHERE IS SNOW?
Special Envoy James A. Baker III is getting rave reviews for globe-hopping efforts to lower Iraq's staggering debt, but that raises this question: Where is Treasury Secretary John Snow?
Negotiating with Iraq's creditor nations normally would be handled by the secretary of the treasury. However, Snow was blamed for botching his September mission to Beijing on U.S.-Chinese currency problems. He has maintained a low profile since then.
Secretary of State Colin Powell had no interest in shuttle diplomacy to lower the Iraqi debt, particularly with prostate cancer surgery pending. Baker, a seasoned diplomat who served as both secretary of state and secretary of the treasury, was ideal for the assignment.
The Bush administration is bracing for the first hostile book written by a former official in January when Paul O'Neill publishes an account of his two years as secretary of the treasury.
Pittsburgh industrialist O'Neill left Washington angrily after being fired Dec. 6, 2002, and began work on a book. The White House fears the worst from his insider's account.
A footnote: Lawrence Lindsey, fired as national economic adviser at the same time O'Neill was let go, has remained a Bush loyalist. His accurate public prediction of the Iraq war's cost was one of the reasons for Lindsey's dismissal, but he has resisted the temptation to say I-told-you-so.
Ben Chandler got little help from the Democratic Party when he was defeated for governor of Kentucky in November, and he will not get much more as the party's candidate in a rare Democratic chance to pick up a congressional seat in a Feb. 17 special election.
Chandler lacked support for governor from Kentucky's regular Democrats because he distanced himself from scandal-scarred Democratic Gov. Paul Patton. As state attorney general, Chandler also had gone after Patton. The state party is in disarray after the governor's election, and Patton's friends are still bitter at Chandler.
National Chairman Terry McAuliffe showed reluctance to get involved in Southern and border state politics by staying out of 2003 elections for governor in Mississippi and Kentucky.
Chandler, grandson of the fabled Albert (Happy) Chandler, is given the early edge for the House seat given up by the newly elected Republican governor, Rep. Ernie Fletcher. However, Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell is vigorously boosting his handpicked candidate, State Sen. Alice Forgy-Kerry.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), in its uphill climb to regain control of the House, has targeted four freshman Republicans: Reps. Max Burns of Georgia, Bob Beauprez of Colorado, Mike Rogers of Alabama and Rick Renzi of Arizona.
Beauprez, Rogers and Renzi all won narrowly in 2002, with Beauprez squeaking in by only 121 votes in his suburban Denver district. A Colorado Republican redistricting effort to strengthen Beauprez's district was thrown out in court. He now faces a tougher Democrat than he defeated in 2002: Columbine prosecutor Dave Thomas.
Burns won by 55 percent in the Augusta, Ga., district, but he was opposed by a convicted criminal. "He can't win in that district unless he's running against a crook," claims a Democratic operative. Burns' 2004 opponent will be Athens-Clarke County Commissioner John Barrow.