Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Democratic strategists are focused on possibly putting a Floridian on the national ticket, but it may not be the most obvious choice, Sen. Bob Graham. This year's vice-presidential nominee could be Graham's junior colleague, Sen. Bill Nelson.

Graham recently announced his availability for the vice presidency, following his short-term bid for president and his announcement that he would not seek a fourth term in the Senate. Graham did not help his reputation with his shaky presidential run, but Sen. John Kerry is believed to be looking for any running mate who would guarantee electoral votes.

The Kerry team could pick either Graham or Nelson, depending on who would do the most for the ticket. Graham, a former governor, is better known in Florida. But first-termer Nelson is a fresher face who might do better around the country. Graham is 67 years old, and Nelson is 61. Their lifetime voting records are rated by the American Conservative Union as 19 percent for Graham and 17 percent for Nelson.


Fear by Senate Republican leaders that Sen. John McCain would indefinitely postpone passage of the highway spending bill convinced a reluctant House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert to agree to a two-month extension of former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean?s independent commission investigating the 9-11 attacks.

After private talks with a fellow Illinois Republican, former Gov. Jim Thompson, Hastert had insisted that the Kean Commission conclude on schedule May 27. That put the speaker in disagreement with President Bush, who favors a two-month extension. Hastert worried that the investigation is lurching out of control with partisan Democrats -- such as Washington lawyer Richard Ben-Veniste and former Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana -- using the commission as an election-year weapon against Bush.

A footnote: Their differing views of the Kean Commission added to increasing conflict between the president and the speaker. In a White House meeting Wednesday, Hastert protested Bush?s plans to veto the highway spending bill pending in Congress.


The possibility that Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina can prolong his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination may be eliminated Tuesday in the Georgia primary.

Robert Novak

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

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