Robert Novak

 WASHINGTON -- A poll showing the nomination of Sen. John Edwards for vice president would put his state of North Carolina in play for the presidential election has increased chatter about a Kerry-Edwards ticket among Sen. John Kerry's insiders.

 The Mason-Dixon poll released Tuesday shows that, with Edwards on the ticket, a seven-point lead by George W. Bush over Kerry becomes a one-point Kerry lead. A possible swing in North Carolina's 15 electoral votes could improve what is considered Kerry's current low comfort quotient with Edwards. Kerry is believed to feel more at ease with Rep. Richard Gephardt.

 A footnote: Talk continues among Democrats about Sen. Evan Bayh on the ticket possibly gathering 11 electoral votes from his state of Indiana, which has not been carried for president by a Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.


 Bill Clinton, who as president professed to be in favor of campaign finance reform, will be in Manhattan this week raising funds for one of the Democratic "527" organizations set up to raise soft money, which the McCain-Feingold Act seeks to prohibit.

 Clinton is listed with Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise as "special guests" Thursday evening for a "private dinner" at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel raising money for the Democratic Governor Media Fund. The price of admission: $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000.

 The fund is described in the invitation to the dinner as "a new 527 political organization" that will run "unlimited independent issue ads" in states where more money is needed. "We will make sure," says the invitation, "voters are aware of the failed policies of the Bush administration."


 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz stunned social conservatives Tuesday when he told Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California he would "consider" allowing the U.S. military to pay for abortions of female military personnel who are raped.

 Boxer, an ardent advocate of abortion rights, at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing asked Wolfowitz if "you would consider supporting" her bill funding abortions in military rape cases. "I would certainly consider that, Senator," replied Wolfowitz.

 When asked by this column whether this represented a change in policy, the Defense Department had no response. However, Wolfowitz may have just been trying to put off Boxer's persistence.


Robert Novak

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

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