Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party's presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it. The nature of the alleged scandal was not disclosed.

This word-of-mouth among Democrats makes Obama look vulnerable and Clinton look prudent. It comes during a dip for the front-running Clinton after she refused to take a stand on New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's now discarded plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens.

Experienced Democratic political operatives believe Clinton wants to avoid a repetition of 2004, when attacks on each other by presidential candidates Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt were mutually destructive and facilitated John Kerry's nomination.

LOU FOR PRESIDENT?

The name of longtime CNN commentator Lou Dobbs has entered speculation as a possible independent candidate for president. At age 62, he never has engaged in politics, but is reported by people who know him as pondering a presidential run.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been the most likely independent candidate, particularly if Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani win the Democratic and Republican nominations. But Dobbs's hard-line positions on immigration, international trade and globalization starkly contrast with the three New Yorkers.

If Dobbs really chooses to run, his problem would be finding sufficient campaign funds. While billionaire Bloomberg can handle this difficulty by writing a check, Dobbs would be getting a late start in campaign finance.

OUT OF IOWA

Sen. John McCain soon will consider opting out of the Jan. 3 Iowa presidential caucuses to take the sting out of a probable fifth-place finish there.

McCain skipped Iowa in 2000 while nearly seizing the presidential nomination from heavily favored George W. Bush. But when McCain was the early front-runner for 2008, it was decided he would contest the state this time.

The rationale for leaving Iowa now would be total concentration on the subsequent New Hampshire primary. Although McCain defeated Bush by landslide proportions in New Hampshire eight years ago, he did so with overwhelming support from independents who are likely to vote in the Democratic primary this time.

ABSENTEE CHAIRMAN

Sen. Christopher Dodd's absence from Washington while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination has not only created a backlog of House-passed legislation at the Senate Banking Committee that he chairs. It also has resulted in unconfirmed presidential appointees, including three governors of the Federal Reserve Board.

The three proposed Fed governors -- financier Larry Allan Klane, banker Elizabeth A. Duke and economist Randall S. Kroszner (now serving on the board) -- all were nominated in May. Hearings were held by August, but the Banking Committee has taken no action on them.

No hearings have been held on other nominations referred to the Banking Committee: two members of the Council of Economic Advisers, director of the Federal Housing Finance Board, president of the Government National Mortgage Association and under secretary of commerce for international trade.

NONREPUBLICAN LEADER

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, starting early on his bid for election next year to a fifth term from Kentucky, is running a television ad that omits one spoken word: "Republican."

McConnell does not flaunt his GOP credentials in a heavily Democratic state where Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher was just defeated for re-election in a landslide. The ad features an endorsement by Alben Barkley II, grandson of a Kentucky Democratic icon, Vice President and Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley. "Mitch McConnell is helping build a new Kentucky," says the grandson, as he connects the Republican leader to "the Barkley legacy."

McConnell is not listed among the most seriously threatened Republican incumbent senators for 2008, and the strongest prospective Democratic challenger -- Rep. Ben Chandler -- has announced he will not run for the Senate. But facing what could be a dismal year for Republicans with unexpected defeats, McConnell is preparing an aggressive campaign.


Robert Novak

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

 
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