Robert Novak

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.


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.

Robert Novak

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

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