Robert Novak

 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.


 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 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.

Robert Novak

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

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