Robert Novak

 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Bush surprised well-heeled supporters Monday at an unannounced fund-raiser at a rented house in the Georgetown section of Washington by spending more than a third of his 45-minute speech on immigration.

  Bush met for lunch with the "Regents," major contributors and fund-raisers for the president. They were less interested than ordinary Americans in the immigration issue and consequently were surprised by Bush's emphasis.

  While boosting his beleaguered guest worker program, Bush described immigration as a difficult problem with no easy solution. He criticized multiple appeals for alleged illegal immigrants ordered by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and current procedures for border offenders.


  The closed-door session Wednesday of the House Democratic Caucus, described officially by leaders as harmonious, included angry disagreements over the party's correct approach to Iraq.

 The top two House Democrats -- Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer -- typified the disagreement. Several members, unhappy about Pelosi's advocacy of immediate troop withdrawal, joined Hoyer in taking a more moderate position.

  A footnote: Nearly all House Democrats could unify in opposition to the stance taken by Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean. They feel Dean weakened the party's position by publicly asserting that the United States could not win in Iraq.


  Republican insiders believe Rep. Katherine Harris, with her fund raising in the dumps and her staff constantly in flux, may drop out of the U.S. Senate race in Florida against first-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

 Harris became a national personality as Florida secretary of state, supporting George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential recount. With her campaign repeatedly turning over its senior staffers, Harris may not even raise $500,000 this quarter. A recent poll shows her trailing Nelson by 16 percentage points, leading some Republican members of Congress and state legislators in Florida to worry about their own re-election in 2006.

  A footnote: Some GOP fund-raisers believe Rep. Mark Foley may jump into the Senate race to replace Harris. Foley has $2.35 million cash on hand, compared to Harris' $470,000. Nelson had $6.5 million cash on hand as of Sept. 30.


  Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who once was a big-time Washington lobbyist, prowled Capitol Hill Tuesday and Wednesday, seeking Republican support for additional funding of Hurricane Katrina damage relief on Mississippi's Gulf Coast.

Robert Novak

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

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