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Washington Wrap

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



Better To Give Than To Receive: Entering the final stretch against a much-better funded Howard Dean, Sen. John Kerry has loaned his presidential campaign $850,000 and is working on mortgaging his share of the Boston mansion he co-owns with his wife to bolster his campaign coffers even more.

Earlier this fall Kerry decided to opt out of the federal matching-fund system – and the spending limits that come along with that money – after Dean did the same.

Kerry's campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, said the loan was not a sign of trouble in the campaign but rather an indication that Kerry would do whatever necessary to win. In fact, the Boston Globe reports that the campaign has been using Kerry's loan as a fund-raising pitch to donors, urging them not to abandon his once-leading, now-middling campaign. (Although the Globe reports there was some debate within the campaign as to whether Kerry's contribution would dry up donations from people who thought he could foot the entire bill himself.)

"This is a clear statement from John Kerry," Cahill told The New York Times. "He is in the race to win the nomination and defeat President Bush."

The initial $850,000 came from a personal line of credit and will be used for the sprint between now and the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses, the Globe reports. The bigger home loan could take a few weeks to close and Kerry did not want to waste any time getting money to the campaign. He told the Globe that the Beacon Hill home currently does not have any mortgage. The home's market value has been estimated at upwards of $7 million.

"This money isn't for bumper stickers," said Kerry aide Michael Meehan.

At the end of the third quarter, Kerry reported having raised about $20 million, and had nearly $8 million cash on hand. Since then, his campaign has started running ads, hiring state staffs and traveling more extensively, all of which plow through money. Meehan tells the Globe the campaign hopes to raise another $4 million in the final quarter of 2003.

In addition to half of the Boston house, Kerry has personal assets between $409,000 and $1.8 million. He also jointly owns a painting worth $250,000 to $500,000 and a joint bank account with $50,000 to $100,000 in it. Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, is an heiress to the Heinz ketchup fortune but is limited under federal law from contributing more than $2,000 to her husband's campaign.

In other Kerry news, a new American Research Group poll out of New Hampshire shows him trailing Dean by 25 points. While that is a massive spread, it's down from the 32-point differential a few weeks ago.

Two Insiders Peel Off Dean: In week eight of the National Journal's Insiders Poll, Howard Dean does something he isn't doing very many other places: loses some steam. Dean lost two number-one nods, down to 44 of the 50 participants, and the Insiders take the capture of Saddam Hussein as bad news for Dean. Says one: "They thought they'd start closing it down after Gore – and then Saddam shows up." While another Insider doubts that Dean's loyal fans will care, the consensus is that Saddam threw Dean for a loop.

This week, it's Dick Gephardt who picked up votes: three number-ones, up from zero last week; two taken from Dean and one from Clark. But even if Gephardt gains votes, that doesn't translate into positive Insider vibes. Says one: "A sense of non-momentum in Iowa begs the question: What's the second act and who's going to fund it?" That lack of oomph seems to be Gephardt's theme of the week: anti-Dean ads run by an unaffiliated 527 organization backfire and tar his campaign and now even Insider voters (four of whom are Gephardt supporters) don't think he's got the necessary fire.

And the news isn't good for those further down in the pack either. Wesley Clark doesn't change in the rankings and falls victim to bad timing. As one Insider notes, "Should have picked up a little more with the Saddam capture but [was] stuck in The Hague." For the first time since the poll began, John Edwards loses a few points in the more complicated 1 to 9 ranking but hangs on to his two first-place nods. John Kerry stays in fifth place, with Insiders distinctly underwhelmed. Explains one: "Does this remind anyone of John Glenn's early-state fade-to-black in '84?"

With just 30 days to go till Iowa votes, it looks like the Insiders have yet to be convinced that anyone is close to becoming the anti-Dean.

Clinton, Er, Clark Advisers, Not Buying Dean-o-nomics: On the fifth anniversary of the House vote to impeach President Clinton, Howard Dean has gone where few Democrats have dared to tread: questioning the economic policies of Bill Clinton.

In a speech on economic policy, Dean, the self-proclaimed leader of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, said that "while Bill Clinton said that the era of big government is over, I believe we must enter a new era for the Democratic Party – not one where we join Republicans and aim simply to limit the damage they inflict on working families."

Dean told The New York Times that he was not criticizing Mr. Clinton and was not calling for bigger government but an "era of fairer government." But he said enough to give his opponents an opening, and take it they did. Joe Lieberman told reporters he "couldn't believe" that Dean was trying to separate himself from Bill Clinton and inferred that Dean would be trying to tear down Mr. Clinton's "extraordinary success on the economy."

On Friday, two Clark advisers, former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor and former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Laura Tyson, held a conference call "discuss how Gen. Clark would embrace President Clinton's economic policies, which helped create more than 22 million new jobs, not distance himself from them, as Gov. Dean has."

The advisers proclaimed it "curious" that Dean would attack or even question Clintonomics. Tyson said the proposals went to the question of Dean's credibility. "How can he be for all these things and still balance the budget," she asked. She said she felt "comfortable with the Clark plan" which followed the Clinton approach.

Did we mention the name Clinton enough here? Another former Clinton adviser now working for a Democratic candidate (not Dean or Clark) told CBS News this week that the former president purports to be annoyed that the Clark folks "throw around his name" all the time. However, on this issue, one guesses he doesn't mind his name being kept alive.

Holiday, What Holidays? In years of campaigns past, politicians (and voters) have had the luxury of taking an extended vacation over the holidays, but a condensed primary calendar means it's a whole new ballgame, with some of the candidates taking the change a bit more seriously than others.

Joe and Hadassah Lieberman who are bypassing Iowa, just moved into a new apartment in Manchester, N.H., where they will set up camp until the primary on Jan. 27. "Well, I hope he's quiet and doesn't have too many parties," neighbor Roger Gravel told Manchester's WMUR.

Meanwhile, John Kerry is pushing the bounds of sleep depravation in a 24-hour "work day" throughout Iowa on Monday the 22nd, as part of a four-day swing through the Hawkeye State, and of course a big New Year's Eve soiree. Wesley Clark is keeping his eyes on the February prizes as he embarks on his "True Grits" tour, which takes him to eight Southern states in two days.

The next month is sure to be a marathon with about a month to go before things get started with Iowa. The candidates are at least allowing for a day here and there for a bit of R & R, but most seem ready to go again by Saturday Jan. 27. Clark will take a few days to be with his family in California, but then hits the road in Arizona; Dean takes a couple of days in Vermont, before heading to Iowa and South Carolina.

John Edwards will be in North Carolina before heading to neighboring South Carolina and then Iowa. Dennis Kucinich is spending the holidays with his family, but will be ready to hit the trail again at the beginning of the new year. Lieberman will soak up the sun in Florida for a couple of days before heading to the New Hampshire snow on the 28th. Carol Moseley Braun is taking Christmas off in Chicago, but will be back in the office on the 26th.

Quote of the Day: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the CBS News Political Unit. We'll be following the campaign on the Politics page over the next two weeks and back Wrapping on Monday January 5, 2004.

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