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Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, and Beth Lester of the CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital.



Back To Politics: President Bush's trips to Michigan on Monday and Pittsburgh on Tuesday could be overshadowed by his reported decision to stop the steep tariffs on imported steel that he imposed in March 2002 to bolster the ailing U.S. steel industry. The Washington Post reports Mr. Bush's decision to kill the tariffs is "all but set in stone," although the possibility exists that he could change his mind this week.

A decision to end the tariffs could cost the president in steel states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, all of which have been badly hurt by low-priced steel imports. On the other hand, the AP reports, the higher steel prices that have come as a result of the tariffs have hurt many manufacturers in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, who've benefited from lower-priced imported steel.

The political impact of ending the tariffs will be front and center in Mr. Bush's trips to Michigan (tariffs bad) and Pittsburgh (tariffs good). On Monday, he will visit Dynamic Metal Treating, a steel-using company that's been hurt by rising steel prices. On Tuesday, Mr. Bush will attend a $1 million campaign fundraiser in Pittsburgh, ironically co-hosted by U.S. Steel CEO Thomas Usher. No formal announcement on ending the tariffs is expected until after the Tuesday event.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, reports that the Bush-Cheney campaign already has organized "one of the largest grass-roots organizations of any modern political campaign, using enormous financial resources and lack of primary opposition to seize and early advantage over the Democrats in the battle to mobilize voters in 2004."

Among the Bush campaign's achievements thus far are an e-mail list totaling 6 million people – at least six times the size of Internet-driven Howard Dean's e-mail list – and a drive to register 3 million new GOP voters, including county-by-county vote targets in key states and training thousands of volunteers who in turn will recruit an "army" of canvassers for the final days of the race. In addition, in each swing state, Bush-Cheney will not only have state chairmen, but chairmen in charge of surrogates, volunteers, voter registration and even an "e-chairman" charged with working with supporters online.

Taking the key battleground state of Ohio as an example, the Bush campaign's field operation is so well-organized, the Post reports, that in its twice-monthly conference call with 70 elected officials and volunteers, roll is called to ensure participation. In Ohio, GOP leaders had a Dec. 1 deadline to name Bush-Cheney leaders in all 88 counties. In Iowa, state chairman David Roederer says volunteers have been signed up in all 99 counties, and that the campaign now is focusing on organizing on the precinct level.

The Bush-Cheney campaign intends to model its field operation on the 72- hour project used by the RNC in 2002 and use expensive personal and one-on-one voter contact techniques in addition to TV ads.

Edwards On The Up And Up? A day after Bill Safire touted Sen. John Edwards as "a dark horse" in New Hampshire, there is more good news for the Edwards camp in another key primary state. A new poll conducted by the Feldman Group Inc. for Greenville Magazine shows Edwards as the leading candidate in South Carolina, with 17 percent. Rev. Al Sharpton comes in second with 12 percent, Howard Dean with 11 percent, Wesley Clark at 10 percent, Joe Lieberman at 9 percent, Dick Gephardt 8 percent, Carol Moseley Braun at 6 percent, John Kerry at 5 percent and Dennis Kucinich at 1 percent, the AP reports.

The Feldman group poll comes on the heels of another South Carolina poll with positive numbers for Edwards. Although most polls have shown Edwards leading in South Carolina, last month an American Research Group poll found Wesley Clark up by 7 percent. This month, the newest ARG poll shows that gap has closed, with Clark leading Edwards by only three points, 15 to 12 percent. Edwards is now leading in most polls and the lone holdout has him creeping up. ARG's sample puts African Americans at 33 percent of the Democratic primary vote, whereas Feldman estimates them constituting 50 percent. Black turnout could be key in determining the winner of the February 3 primary.

WCIV-TV reports that both Clark and Lieberman met with Democratic activists in Charleston on Sunday. Sharpton was also in South Carolina trying to bolster his support and giving a sermon at West Columbia's Brookland Baptist Church. The State reports that Sharpton spoke to over 1,000 people, turning "overtly political only briefly, when he discussed the $87 billion price tag on the war in Iraq."

Absent from the state was Howard Dean, who the AP reports has angered some local Democrats "for not paying enough attention" to the state. Perhaps to stave off more criticism, the Dean campaign says it will announce a South Carolina chairman, Don Jones, on Tuesday, although Dean himself will be in Iowa.

Dean's Secrets: What is Howard Dean hiding by sealing many of his official records in Vermont?

Newsweek reports that Dean's camp says he's not hiding anything, even though he put a 10-year seal on many of his papers, which is four years longer than previous Vermont governors.

"Most of the records are open," Dean spokeswoman Tricia Enright told the magazine. She added there's "absolutely not" a "smoking gun" in the sealed documents. Dean had told Vermont Public Radio that he sealed the records because of "future political considerations… We didn't want anything embarrassing appearing in the papers at a critical time."

One thing that the Los Angeles Times did figure out from Dean's time as governor is that he "was a pragmatist who ran his state with the blunt efficiency of a CEO." An article in Monday's Times characterizes Dean as "a pro-business centrist" and says "he was… out of step with the liberal Democratic majority."

Apparently, Dean was so determined to balance the budget in Vermont that he came close to cutting social programs that he cared about. It's that record that Rep. Dick Gephardt and Sen. John Kerry have attacked Dean on.

Sean Campbell, Dean's former finance commissioner, defended his old boss, however, saying the attacks are "just not accurate. … We are a state of 600,000 and we have managed to support social services at levels that are remarkable compared to other states."

Meantime, Dean is the recipient of another positive comment, this time from another previously obscure governor who eventually became president.

Jimmy Carter told Time magazine that while he doesn't currently support Dean, he thinks Dean is "doing quite well." Carter added that Dean's Confederate flag comments, "showed a little bit of an incompatibility with national opinion" and that he should have "just said [he wants] the support of Southern whites that drive pickup trucks."

All PC All The Time: Months after announcing its intention to form a liberal radio network to compete with conservative talk radio, the Progress Media group announced it is close to buying radio stations in five major media markets, the New York Times reports. Seeking to compete with the broadcast power of radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh, Progress Media hopes to announce the purchase of stations in five of the nation's ten largest media markets: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston.

Progress Media, whose support the Times reports originally came from Chicago Democrats Sheldon and Anita Drobny, has now been mostly sold to Evan Cohen, a New York investor. Under Cohen, the company will be run by CEO Mark Walsh, an Internet guru who previously worked for America Online. The radio station will include news analysis, talk shows and entertainment pieces "in the spirit of 'The Daily Show,'" says the Times. Hoping to be on-air in spring 2004, the company has been adding staff, including Shelley Lewis, former head of CNN's "American Morning," to oversee news. Progress Media is also in talks with comedians Al Franken and Janeane Garafalo about hosting daily talk shows.

USA Today reports that liberals are also "finding their voice" in print and on the Web, and are louder and angrier than before. Five books attacking President Bush have been on the USA Today best-seller list since August, including Michael Moore's "Dude, Where's My Country?" and Al Franken's "Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them)."

In addition, there are nearly two-dozen new liberal issue groups and think tanks being formed. International financier George Soros has pledged over $15 million to these groups, including $3 million to the Center for American Progress run by former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta; $10 million to Americans Coming Together, run in part by Clinton aide Harold Ickes; and $2.5 million to MoveOn.org.

Quote of the Day: "It's pitiful. ... I don't think any of them can beat George Bush. I think only George Bush can beat George Bush, and he well may." - Historian Garry Wills on CBS' "Face the Nation", asked about the state of the Democratic Party.

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