Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Hillary Clinton has cornered Eastern and Midwestern Democratic contributors, helping to make her the prohibitive early favorite for the 2008 presidential nomination.

 Party insiders are amazed at the extent to which the former first lady's agents have secured promises of financial backing. Assuming that Clinton actually becomes a candidate, lesser known Democrats will find it difficult to raise sufficient money.

 A footnote: An exception to Sen. Clinton's support is Hollywood, where some of the entertainment industry's big givers question her electability. Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana has scored points with movie moguls on recent trips to California.


 Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean recently came to New York to dine with prominent party members and reassure them about his performance, but he totally failed with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

 Rubin, an icon in Democratic circles, left the meeting appalled by Dean. In contrast, party insider Vernon Jordan was impressed by the national chairman. That left Rubin wondering aloud whether he and Jordan had been at the same event.

 A footnote: Dean's performance on NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday did not help him. Moderator Tim Russert noted that Dean said in December 2003 "that we shouldn't prejudge Osama bin Laden" and asked how Dean could "prejudge" House Majority Leader Tom DeLay by saying he should be in jail. "I don't think I'm prejudging him [DeLay]," Dean replied, without reneging on his old bin Laden remarks.


 The massive referendum that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger may put on the November ballot could contain a "paycheck protection" provision that would cripple organized labor's overwhelming political power in the Golden State.

 The provision would sharply restrict unions in making political contributions using money withheld from workers' paychecks. Schwarzenegger is supporting spending limits and state legislative redistricting but has not yet signed off on paycheck protection.

 Republican Schwarzenegger would prefer to work with the Democratic-controlled legislature to enact his reforms, but advisers tell him he will have to use the referendum process. He has until June 13 to get the reforms on this year's ballot.


 Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, considered a rising star in conservative Republican ranks, may have throttled his chances as a 2008 presidential dark horse by advocating a 75-cents-a-pack "fee" on cigarettes.

Robert Novak

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

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