Robert Novak

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, whose stock as Sen. Barack Obama's possible vice presidential running mate had been rising, may have ruined his chances with his belittling attack on Sen. John McCain's war record.

Clark, along with other Obama surrogates, followed the campaign's line of downgrading McCain's performance as a Vietnam War POW. But Clark was particularly insulting. ("I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.") He also got more attention by appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," while other surrogates addressed campaign gatherings.

A footnote: Clark had been considered the leading former military officer to compensate for Obama's lack of national security experience because his performance steadily improved during an unsuccessful campaign for the 2004 presidential nomination. Two retired Marine generals also mentioned for vice president, Anthony Zinni and James Jones, lack any political experience.

Romney Rising

Mitt Romney's surge toward the Republican vice presidential nomination was boosted at last month's Texas state party convention in Houston.

Romney, the predominant conservative choice to be Sen. John McCain's running mate, was pleasantly surprised to encounter a paid audience of about 3,500 for a Republican fundraising dinner. He received a standing ovation after delivering a conservative stemwinder.

A footnote: Vice presidential prospects for Bobby Jindal, the 37-year-old first-year governor of Louisiana, suffered when he vetoed a pay raise for state legislators after promising them he would sign it. However, conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who has boosted Jindal for the ticket, said the veto made him stronger. GAS PRICE POLITICS

When Chairman David Obey announced before the Fourth of July break that he was shutting down his House Appropriations Committee's consideration of money bills, House Republican leaders felt they had the Democratic majority on the run over soaring gas prices.

The committee was considering the Labor-HHS appropriation when ranking Republican Jerry Lewis offered the Interior money bill as an amendment to force a vote on oil drilling. "As far as I'm concerned," Obey said as he adjourned the committee, charging Republican obstructionism, "they've had their shot."

Democrats do not want to vote on increased oil drilling, which gets a high rating from voters as a means of eventually reducing prices at the gas pump. OBAMA'S GOP LOBBYIST

Robert Novak

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

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