Robert Novak

 WASHINGTON -- Democratic Party insiders who three weeks ago saw Sen. John Kerry as a sure presidential election winner now concede that President George W. Bush has made at least a temporary comeback.
Bush has prospered, in these Democrats' view, less because of his own efforts than uncontrollable events and Kerry's failures. The prospective Democratic nominee's campaign was eclipsed by Ronald Reagan's death, Bill Clinton's book and the Iraq handover. However, the Democrats complain Kerry's campaign has done a poor job of presenting the candidate to the public.

 The Kerry camp has responded to these critics by saying that the Democratic National Convention, beginning in Boston July 26, will introduce him to voters at large. Clinton, then governor of Arkansas, enjoyed his first big spurt in the polls during the 1992 convention in New York.

MITT IN '08?

 Republican talk on Capitol Hill in Washington about presidential prospects for 2008 has turned to Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as a conservative who was moderate enough to win in a liberal Democratic state.

 Romney has attracted interest among social conservatives with his strong stand against legalizing homosexual marriage. He has not been solidly pro-life, but could tighten his position on abortion if he campaigns for the nomination.

 A footnote: There is no clear favorite of the party's right wing to succeed George W. Bush. Support for Colorado Gov. Bill Owens declined after his divorce. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would be favored, were it not for political apprehension about a Bush dynasty.


 Teamsters President James P. Hoffa's resignation from President Bush's Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations is viewed as an unconditional divorce of the attempted Bush-Hoffa political marriage by go-betweens who spent years trying to put it together.

 "I will no longer lend legitimacy to a sham process, in which our views and those of other important U.S. constituencies are not respected," said Hoffa. Bush's signing of the Central American Free Trade Agreement was considered the last straw by Hoffa. Nobody on either side expects the partnership to be reconstructed, even if Bush wins re-election.

 Bush and Hoffa were closest when the president was pressing for oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, but they have found little to agree on since then. Starting with his active participation in Rep. Richard Gephardt's presidential candidacy, Hoffa became increasingly critical of Bush.


Robert Novak

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

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