Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Rudy Giuliani is the only 2008 Republican presidential candidate who has not accepted an invitation to a "values voters" conference of social conservatives in Washington, D.C., Oct. 19-21 sponsored by the Family Research Council.

Giuliani's absence suggests that he will fare badly in the conference's straw vote though he leads the national Republican public opinion polls. Some 2,000 social conservatives from around the country are expected to attend the event.

A footnote: Supporters from outside his staff are urging Giuliani to discontinue the stunt of interrupting a campaign speech by taking a cell phone call from his wife. Although this received national attention only recently when Giuliani did it while addressing the National Rifle Association on Sept. 21, it has been part of his political bag of tricks all year.

NO SPECIAL PROSECUTOR

With the resignation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, Senate Democrats have lost interest in getting a special prosecutor to investigate the role of the White House and Gonzales in firing U.S. attorneys.

The Democrats have not at all ended their interest in the matter. But key senators say they have confidence in retired U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mukasey to handle the inquiry, including possible perjury charges against Gonzales.

A footnote: Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, still has not scheduled hearings on the Mukasey nomination two weeks after it was made. A White House political operative has grumbled that the Senate needed only 12 days, all told, to confirm Janet Reno, President Bill Clinton's nominee for attorney general.

GOODBYE, MARTINEZ

Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, who was named general chairman of the Republican Party only nine months ago, has advised associates that he will leave the post as soon as somebody clinches the party's presidential nomination. That probably will come after the Feb. 5 primary elections next year.

When Martinez took the party post Jan. 19, it was expected he would stay on through the 2008 elections as the GOP's principal national spokesman. Many Republicans now grumble that Martinez has been ineffective in that role, partly because he has been drowned out by the many presidential hopefuls.

Kentucky lawyer Mike Duncan, who came on board with Martinez as chairman of the Republican National Committee, is expected to remain running day-to-day operations at national party headquarters for the balance of his two-year term.

RICHARDSON FOR V.P.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Mexican-American who could pin down the Latino vote, is back as a leading vice-presidential prospect if Sen. Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic presidential nomination next year.

Richardson's poor early showing as a candidate for the presidential nomination, particularly in debates, had turned off speculation about him for second place on the ticket. But his clever TV ads have pushed him to the top of the second tier of Democratic presidential candidates and back into the vice-presidential swim.

A footnote: There is considerable opposition inside the Clinton camp to Sen. Barack Obama as her running mate. Skeptics consider it too risky to pair the first woman for president with the first African-American for vice president.

DANGEROUS GOP VACANCIES

The Democratic candidacy of former basketball coach Dick Versace endangers 68 years of Republican control of the Peoria-based congressional seat in Illinois left vacant by the retirement of Republican Rep. Ray LaHood.

Versace was a highly popular coach of Bradley University in Peoria before going to coach in the NBA. LaHood is in his seventh term in Congress after succeeding his boss, then House Minority Leader Bob Michel.

A footnote: A Democratic takeover is even more likely for another Illinois seat: a Joliet-based district where Republican Rep. Jerry Weller is retiring under a cloud of scandal.


Robert Novak

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

 
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