Inside Report: Al & Joe is '04

Posted: May 04, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Well-placed Democratic sources report plans for Al Gore and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the party's 2000 ticket, to make an unprecedented bid for the 2004 presidential and vice-presidential nominations as a team. Previous losing presidential candidates have been renominated four years later (most recently Democrat Adlai Stevenson in 1952-56 and Republican Thomas E. Dewey in 1944-48), but never with the same running mate. Lieberman recently affirmed his pledge not to seek the '04 presidential nomination if Gore tries again. A footnote: Lieberman leads '04 Democratic hopefuls in contributions to his party's local candidates in the early presidential-selection states of Iowa ($25,000) and New Hampshire ($12,500). Sen. John Edwards is second in New Hampshire with $9,000, and Rep. Richard Gephardt is second in Iowa with $2,500. KAREN IN '04 White House aides are whispering to Republican insiders that Karen Hughes, who is resigning as counselor to the president to return to Texas, would like to run George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. She could handle that assignment from Austin if the Texas state capital is headquarters for President Bush's campaign in 2004, as it was in 2000. Hughes, a former executive director of the Texas Republican Party, has been a major strategist in all of Bush's election efforts beginning with his first run for governor in 1994. Well-informed Republican circles have speculated that Bush's '04 effort would be run by two Washington-based operatives: Jack Oliver, deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Ken Mehlman, White House director of political affairs. REVIVING ANWR DRILLING A deal cut by Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid may breathe new life into President Bush's proposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) after its decisive Senate defeat. Reid pleaded with Republican leaders for quick approval of Senate members of the conference named to resolve differences with the House energy bill, which authorizes ANWR drilling. He pushed Sens. John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman, presidential hopefuls, and the Republican defector, Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, as conferees. Reid also wanted a place for himself, to monitor transporting of nuclear waste materials to his home state of Nevada. The Republicans offered to approve Reid's conferees, in return for reducing the Democratic edge to one vote instead of a two-vote margin. Reid agreed, but that will give ANWR drilling a one-vote edge in the conference if Democratic Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana votes for it, as he did on the floor. POWELL'S DENTAL DIPLOMACY Secretary of State Colin Powell was so eager to personally convey to Western Hemisphere governments the U.S. message on Venezuela that he left a dentist's chair to go the Organization of American States (OAS) meeting. Powell went to the dentist for a root canal procedure following his mission to the Middle East. He followed that painful procedure by going directly to the OAS. The secretary wanted to make clear that while the United States did not support the abortive coup of President Hugo Chavez, it was certainly not endorsing the Venezuelan populist. Powell called on Chavez "to follow with deeds his new pledges of national reconciliation and respect of democratic principles." GOP'S HOUSE INSURANCE Republicans count on 11-term conservative Democratic Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas to vote for Republican Dennis Hastert as House speaker after the 2002 elections. That would compensate for the probable loss in this year's election of Ohio's nominally Democratic Rep. James Traficant, who voted for Hastert last year. Hall has indicated publicly he would back Hastert against Democratic Rep. Richard Gephardt next time, but Republican sources say he has told them privately he will vote for the GOP candidate for speaker under any conditions. That would mean Democratic leaders would strip Hall of committee assignments as they did with Traficant. Unlike Traficant, however, Hall might take committee assignments from the Republicans and perhaps change parties. Traficant has remained a Democrat in name only, but is running as an independent this year following his conviction on 10 felony corruption counts.