Robert Novak

 WASHINGTON -- The current buzz in the national capital's high-level Democratic circles has projected that Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, previously considered a dark horse as John Kerry's running mate, is now the leading prospect.

 Political consultant John Lapp, a former Vilsack aide, is in Washington beating the drums for the governor. One senior aide in the 2000 Gore-for-president campaign flatly predicts a Kerry-Vilsack ticket.

 Kerry likes and admires Vilsack and is grateful for the endorsement by Vilsack's wife, Christie, in the Iowa caucuses at a time when Howard Dean was considered a heavy favorite. However, Vilsack lacks national security expertise, and his experience is limited to Iowa. He was elected governor in 1998 at age 47 after serving as a state senator and mayor of Mount Pleasant.


 A House Ways and Means Committee meeting on a tax bill, urged by the Republican leadership, was cancelled Thursday after Democrats complained it would besmirch the memory of Ronald Reagan.

 House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has pressed for action on a bill that would eliminate an export subsidy ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization but also deal with many other questions. Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas scheduled the session long before the former president's death.

 Charles Rangel, ranking Democrat on Ways and Means, protested that the session would dishonor Reagan. Democrats threatened to prevent anything from being accomplished by forcing a reading of the bill and all amendments. Thomas cancelled the session, but Republicans grumbled that Rangel was always a sharp critic of the Reagan presidency.


 The campaign by Grover Norquist and other conservative activists to immediately replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with Ronald Reagan is partially intended to cause trouble for Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle's re-election campaign in South Dakota.

 A vote on the proposal this year would put Daschle on the spot. He faces a tough challenge from former Rep. John Thune in a predominantly Republican state where Reagan was very popular.

 A footnote: Daschle unsuccessfully attempted to prolong debate on the 1998 bill naming Reagan National Airport in Washington. He was one of only 22 senators voting no (while Sen. Edward M. Kennedy voted yes).


Robert Novak

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

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