Pre-empting Kerry

Robert Novak
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Posted: Mar 13, 2004 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- When Republicans Wednesday night rushed through a $6.9 billion restoration of defense funds requested by President Bush, they were forestalling a suspected effort by Sen. John Kerry to polish his national security record by seeking extra money for the military.

Republican Sen. John Warner, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, proposed to restore the cuts made by the Budget Committee in Bush's $421 billion Defense Department budget. His proposal carried by a 95 to 4 vote.

Republican strategists had feared Kerry would push for more military funding to counter Bush campaign highlighting of the prospective Democratic presidential nominee's voting record. Kerry has voted for major defense cuts at least seven times dating back to 1989. The most recent such vote was cast on Sept. 25, 2001, exactly two weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

KERRY'S COUP

Sen. John Kerry's disclosure of President Bush's long-awaited choice of a manufacturing czar shocked and angered officials in the White House, including George W. Bush himself.

Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans was supposed to announce the nomination of Nebraska industrialist Anthony F. Raimondo to the new post of assistant secretary for manufacturing. But Kerry beat Evans to the punch by not only disclosing Raimondo's name but also revealing that he had opened a factory in China. Raimondo withdrew his name from consideration Thursday night.

The president and his senior staff were described as apoplectic. Republican insiders were less impressed by the Kerry campaign team somehow learning about Raimondo than by its rapid distribution of details about his China connection.

HOFFA'S CHOICE

James P. Hoffa was brought "kicking and screaming" to his presidential endorsement of Sen. John Kerry and really preferred Sen. John Edwards, according to a close associate of the Teamsters leader.

Hoffa met separately with Kerry and Edwards after the union president's first choice for the nomination, Rep. Richard Gephardt, dropped out following his defeat in the Iowa caucuses. Hoffa told friends that Edwards was much closer to Gephardt on international trade issues, adding that he did not care that much for Kerry personally.

Gephardt had quickly endorsed Kerry, and he talked Hoffa into getting on the winner's bandwagon. Gephardt and Hoffa attended the University of Michigan Law School together.

COLORADO CONTEST

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, shocked by the unexpected announcement by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell that he would not seek re-election this year, got another unpleasant surprise last Tuesday. Gov. Bill Owens telephoned to say he would not run for the Senate.

Owens, elected to a second term as governor in 2002, would have been a strong favorite to replace Campbell. Instead, he endorsed his close political associate, freshman Rep. Bob Beauprez, who would face a crowded Republican primary. In contrast, Democrats have united behind State Attorney General Ken Salazar. What seemed a safe Republican Senate seat is now a contested one.

Owens, who has his eye on the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, may have noted the poor track record for Republican senators going directly into the White House. The last to make it was Sen. Warren Harding of Ohio in 1920.

PICTURED WITH KARL

Launching a new drive for campaign funds, Bush-Cheney is offering a chance to be photographed with top White House aide Karl Rove for a contribution of $1,000.

The price of admission to a March 18 reception at the Birchmere Music Hall in suburban Alexandria, Va., is only $250. In addition to Rove, campaign chairman Marc Racicot and campaign manager Ken Mehlman will be on hand.

The $1,000 photo opportunity at the Birchmere is offered only for Rove, who is senior adviser to the president and his principal political strategist. Pictures-for-pay usually are limited to high-level elected officials, but staffer Rove is a major celebrity in the Republican Party.