Edwards to Iraq?

Robert Novak
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Posted: Jul 10, 2004 12:00 AM

 WASHINGTON -- Tentative plans are being discussed inside the Kerry-Edwards campaign to send vice-presidential candidate John Edwards to Iraq as soon as possible.
 
Edwards has not gone to Iraq since the U.S. invasion last year. His visit there would be designed to try to fill the senator's lack of experience in national security policy. It also would provide the campaign with photo opportunities showing Edwards in close contact with U.S. troops in Iraq.

 Before he announced his presidential candidacy last year, Edwards declared aggressive action against Iraq was needed because weapons of mass destruction were there. Like John Kerry, Edwards voted for the war resolution but against the $87 billion bill funding the conflict.

MCCAIN'S CONCERNS

 Sen. John McCain, whose enthusiastic endorsement is being used in a television ad for George W. Bush, is privately advising colleagues that the president is not in good shape politically and faces an uphill fight for re-election.

 McCain tells fellow senators that he is particularly concerned about his own state of Arizona, where he feels Sen. John Kerry will be hard to defeat. Although all polls show President Bush still ahead in Arizona, the White House has long been worried about retaining the state because of the rising Latino vote there. Losing Arizona would cast a cloud over the president's national prospects.

 A footnote: Moderate Republican senators grumble that some longtime contributors are refusing their usual contribution to the Republican presidential campaign. Their biggest grievance: Bush's endorsement of the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment.

FLORIDA CONCERNS

 Florida Republicans fret that they will find it difficult to blast Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards for being a trial lawyer opposed to tort reform when Senate candidate Mel Martinez has been a prominent Florida trial lawyer himself.

 Martinez in the late 1980s was president of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers and fought against a state cap on punitive damages. Edwards was an officer of the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers. The problem facing the GOP is that attacks on Edwards in other states will be turned against Martinez if he wins the Aug. 31 primary. The former secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Martinez was urged by the White House to run for the Senate.

 A footnote: Florida Republicans also are worried that the new voting machines may gave Sen. John Kerry some 15,000 votes that Al Gore lost in 2000 because of "overvotes." Those are people who voted for more than one candidate, thereby disqualifying themselves.

AIDS IN VIETNAM

 President Bush did not please his social conservative constituency by deciding to send anti-AIDS money to Vietnam, a communist country that funds abortion with government money.

 While Bush had targeted the money for 14 countries, Congress adopted a Democratic proposal mandating a 15th state. It stipulated that the country could not be in the Caribbean or Africa, where governments tend to be socially conservative and advocate sexual abstinence to combat AIDS.

 Vietnam was selected as the 15th country even though it failed to meet U.S. criteria, such as commitment to human rights and religious freedom.

VEGAS HOLIDAY

 Republican Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, one of the most powerful appropriators in Congress, is soliciting Washington lobbyists for a four-day September "weekend in Las Vegas" at the deluxe Bellagio Hotel.

 The cost for the holiday: $2,500 per political action committee, $1,500 per individual. The money goes to Rogers's political action committee (HALPAC) for distribution to other candidates. That money could fuel a future bid for House Appropriations chairman by Rogers, who is now fourth-ranking Republican on the committee.

 Beginning with dinner on Friday Sept. 17, the weekend hits high gear Saturday with golf, cocktails and a showing of Cirque du Soleil's "O." A brunch is scheduled for Sunday with the weekend concluding at Monday's fund-raising breakfast.