Pressuring Edwards

Robert Novak
|
Posted: Feb 14, 2004 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Kerry's campaign is putting out word that it is time for Sen. John Edwards to leave the presidential race. The Massachusetts lawmaker's one-sided primary wins Tuesday in Virginia and Tennessee undermined the North Carolinian's claims to be the South's candidate.

Edwards is still first choice for vice president among key Kerry advisers, but they say he will needlessly hurt his chances if he keeps running for president. Kerry does not want to expend more time and money in those states after the nomination really has been wrapped up.

A footnote: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, whose mother is Mexican and resides in Mexico City, is increasingly talked about as Kerry's running mate to attract the expanding Latino vote. Kerry-Richardson would be the first national Democratic ticket without a Southerner since Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro lost 49 of 50 states in 1984.

DEMOCRAT HOFFA

Republican middlemen gave up their last hope of bringing James P. Hoffa closer to President Bush when the Teamsters president returned to Washington as a fiercely partisan Democrat after campaigning in Iowa for Rep. Richard Gephardt's presidential campaign.

Hoffa, who excoriated Bush in speeches all over Iowa, left the state indicting the Republican administration for job losses that he encountered there. However, Labor Department officials who deal closely with Hoffa say he had become bitterly anti-Bush long ago.

Hoffa attended the University of Michigan Law School with Gephardt, and Republican operatives had hoped the labor leader would stay neutral after Gephardt withdrew. Instead, Sen. John Kerry convinced Hoffa that as president, he would try to impose international trade restrictions, winning the Teamsters' endorsement.

RILING UP POWELL

House Democrats who have launched a planned attack on President Bush are irritated that a colleague, Rep. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, picked the wrong target at the wrong time in riling up Secretary of State Colin Powell.

During a House International Relations Committee hearing, Brown told Powell the president "may have been AWOL" from the Alabama National Guard in 1972. "You don't know what you are talking about," an angry Powell told Brown. When the congressman repeated his insinuation, the former four-star general flashed his famous stare, asserting: "Mr. Brown, let's not go there."

Brown, one of the most partisan Democrats in Congress, is working closely with Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois in attempting to chip away at the president's credibility. However, they did not intend to provoke a fight with Powell.

NO TO HOLLYWOOD

Retiring Democratic Sen. John Breaux has become the second legislator from Louisiana to turn down a $1 million-plus a year job as Hollywood's lobbyist in the nation's capital.

Breaux's fellow Louisianan, Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin, previously rejected the offer to replace 83-year-old Jack Valenti, who is retiring as president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) after 38 years. Tauzin has accepted a $2 million post as the pharmaceutical industry's representative. As an independent lobbyist, Breaux could easily make twice what he was offered by the MPAA.

A footnote: Hollywood may next look at Republican Rep. David Dreier of California, chairman of the House Rules Committee. However, he is reported to be uninterested in leaving Congress.

NON-FLORIDA FRIENDS

The Senate Republican establishment showed Tuesday it is anything but neutral in Florida's U.S. Senate race by sponsoring a fund-raiser at national GOP headquarters supporting Mel Martinez, who recently resigned as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, in the contested Republican primary.

Listed as honorary co-chairs for the event were Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Senate President Pro-Tem Ted Stevens and the rest of the Senate GOP leadership. The cost of the reception was $1,000 to $4,000 a person.

Republican opponents of Martinez (who never before has sought statewide office) include former Rep. Bill McCollum, House Speaker Johnnie Byrd and former Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire. McCollum was the losing Republican Senate candidate from Florida in 2000.