WASHINGTON -- Prominent Democrats are advising Sen. Hillary Clinton that, if she runs for president in 2008 as expected, she should avoid the Iowa caucuses as the first competition for the Democratic nomination.
That advice is based on the belief that any Democrat must run well to the left to win the Iowa caucuses. Many Democrats believe Sen. John Kerry's 2004 victory in Iowa, while clinching the nomination, hurt his chances for the general election.
Efforts may be made in the Democratic National Committee to schedule the Michigan primary the same week as the Iowa caucuses, downgrading Iowa's importance. This problem for Clinton can be solved if Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack runs for president, a cause for all other Democratic candidates to stay out of the state's caucuses.
Sources close to Sen. John McCain say he hopes the Justice Department will indict embattled Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, which would terminate investigation by McCain's Senate Indian Affairs Committee of Abramoff's deals with Indian tribes.
McCain has been accused by critics inside the Republican Party of using the Abramoff investigation to get back at foes of the senator's 2000 presidential campaign and help his possible 2008 candidacy. Government sources report federal prosecutors are considering possible RICO (anti-racketeering) and tax evasion indictments.
During a recent closed-door luncheon of Republican senators, McCain declared that the Abramoff investigation was not intended to harass any individuals. The organizations run by Republican activists Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, who were vigorous opponents of McCain in 2000, have been subpoenaed by the McCain committee in connection with his investigation.
NO JUDGE COMPROMISE
A compromise of the judicial confirmation impasse proposed by moderate Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson is not likely to win over other Democratic senators, but is viewed as an effort to aid Nelson's re-election prospects in conservative Nebraska next year.
Nelson's plan would guarantee an eventual Senate vote on all judicial nominees, ending the blockage of 16 of President Bush's choices. In return, all nominees would be guaranteed a timely vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held up some of President Bill Clinton's judicial choices.
That scheme is more than acceptable to Republican leaders, but they do not harbor any possibility of Nelson picking up 11 more Democrats needed to attain 67 votes in the Senate. Republican speculation is that Nelson worries about Democratic blockage of the judges threatening his re-election in Nebraska, even though he is now a clear favorite.
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California surprisingly turned down the Senate Republican leadership's offer for an up-and-down vote last Thursday on her bill to repeal an anti-abortion statute.
Boxer would repeal the measure passed into law last year that bars state and local government from coercing health care providers to perform abortions against their will. When she offered repeal as an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill last November, Republican leaders feared a filibuster and offered her a future vote on a stand-alone bill.
A whip count last week showed 56 votes out of 100 against the Boxer bill, and the margin might have been greater. Democrats, trying to avoid an anti-religion stigma, would not benefit from supporting a doomed measure that could force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.
WASHINGTON STATE INTRIGUE
First-term Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell may have mixed emotions about the outcome of the protracted fight over the contested 2004 election for governor of her state of Washington.
A final Democratic victory for governor is likely to free up the strongest Republican candidate against Cantwell next year. Republican State Sen. Dino Rossi was counted out of the dead heat for governor by the Democratic-controlled state legislature, which certified State Attorney General Christine Gregoire as governor on Jan. 11.
If Rossi loses a lawsuit over the contested election that begins May 23, he is expected to run for the Senate and would have strong White House backing.