WASHINGTON -- The acceptance of former Rep. Jim Nussle to be President Bush's budget director provides more evidence that Republican presidential front-runner Rudy Giuliani is downgrading his effort in Iowa caucuses leading off the GOP delegate selection process next January.
When Giuliani bowed out of this summer's Republican presidential straw poll at Ames, Iowa, the former New York City mayor's camp insisted he was not abandoning the caucuses. But Nussle, defeated for governor of Iowa last year, was the most prominent Iowan for Giuliani. The perception in Iowa is that Nussle would not become Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director if Giuliani were serious about the caucuses.
A footnote: Rob Portman's resignation as OMB director reflected his desire to mend his Ohio political fences. The former congressman is the leading prospect for governor in 2010 following the Democratic sweep there in 2006.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has undermined Republican schemes to capitalize on Democratic tax plans by joining Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, in punitive tax plans against private equity partnerships.
Republican fund-raisers had been scolding the financial services industry for giving more than half of its contributions to Democrats in 2005 (according to Bloomberg News). In return, the GOP tells Wall Street, Democrats repay such generosity by increasing the tax burden for financiers.
That argument is undercut by Grassley, the Iowa farmer who continues his long-standing animosity against hedge funds by pushing higher tax rates for them and for private equity partnerships.
While increasing President Bush's overall request for the Labor-HHS appropriations bill by 8 percent, the House Democratic version cuts by 19.6 percent the Labor Department request for funds to enforce disclosure by labor unions of how they use membership dues.
Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has tried, against opposition from organized labor, to enforce at long last union disclosures imposed by the 1959 Landrum-Griffin Labor Reform Act. The funding reductions in the House bill would force Chao to cut enforcement personnel and effectively undercut her efforts.
The Democratic bill was put together by Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, who heads the Labor-HHS subcommittee as well as the full Appropriations Committee. It is one of eight money bills marked for a Bush veto. Rep. James Walsh of New York, the subcommittee's ranking Republican, indicates he will vote to override such a veto.
Sen. John McCain, reflecting dire financial straits for his Republican presidential campaign, has sent a desperate plea for funds to previous contributors who have not reached their campaign limit.
"I took a risk by sending you first class postage stamps with this air gram letter," McCain began his appeal. "But I had no other choice because I urgently need your help before June 30th." He said "the media and our opponents are eagerly awaiting" the quarterly campaign finance report "so they can take the measure of our campaign."
Asserting he needs to raise $700,000 in the last week of June, McCain asked to "please rush a contribution for $400, $300 or $200 to my campaign today to help keep building unstoppable momentum. . . . The liberal Democrats are hoping for one thing and one thing only. That you will set aside this air gram and help pave their way to the White House."
DEMOCRATS IN CHINA
Chicago lawyer-businessman William Daley, a leading supporter of Barack Obama's Democratic presidential campaign, used a month-long business trip to Asia to address the Illinois senator's supporters in China.
Former Secretary of Commerce Daley met Obama backers in Shanghai and Beijing. They told him they could raise a half-million dollars for the senator's campaign.
The overseas Democrats were so enthusiastic about their party's prospects next year that Daley tried to restrain them. The national chairman of Al Gore's near-miss 2000 candidacy, Daley said he expects another close presidential race in 2008.