Washington Wrap

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

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend: The AP's Ron Fournier reports that the campaigns of John Edwards, Dick Gephardt and John Kerry are working together to deny Democratic presidential rival Howard Dean the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union.

The SEIU endorsement – it's the largest union in the AFL-CIO with 1.6 million members – would be a huge boon for any campaign. The union announced last week that its board would meet on Thursday to decide whether to endorse Dean or no candidate at all. "It's Dean or no one," SEIU spokeswoman Sara Howard told the AP.

In response, the AP reports that top aides to Edwards, Gephardt and Kerry held a conference call last week to discuss how to put the brakes on a Dean endorsement. On the call, the aides compared "intelligence from their sources inside the union … and determined that they still had an outside chance to stop Dean, according to senior officials with the three campaigns."

SEIU officials have been besieged with calls from the three campaigns to kill a potential Dean endorsement in the crib, the AP reports.

SEIU spokeswoman Sara Howard tells CBS News that her statement last week still reflects the union's position.

"When the executive board convenes, their primary concern will be what the members want to do. Clearly, the passion of the members is with Gov. Dean, so the board's decision will be whether the members are ready to make an endorsement," Howard said.

This is not the first time Dean has been the focus of an alleged conspiracy among his rivals' campaigns; other instances include flaps over his Confederate flag comments last week and his remarks about Medicare reform in the '90s.

Dean's campaign manager, Joe Trippi, said, "No matter how much people might disdain their tactics of working together on this, it does point out how important this endorsement will be."

Young People Rock, But Old People Vote: On the eve of the CNN/Rock the Vote presidential candidate forum, a new study from the National Annenberg Election Survey shows that it is elderly voters, not the young people Tuesday's forum will cater to, who are most likely to make the difference in the 2004 election.

According to the survey, which surveyed 58,373 adults between December 14, 1999 and January 19, 2001, elderly voters are more likely to pay attention to politics and more likely to participate. In the fall of 2000, survey respondents 65 and older were twice as likely to watch the first Bush-Gore debate and 47 percent said they were "very interested" in the campaign itself. In comparison, only 27 percent of people under 65 expressed a similar level of interest.

Beyond paying attention, elderly voters are more likely to actually vote as well. Among elderly voters, 73 percent said they always voted, compared to only 42 percent of people aged 18 to 64. In important primary states, the difference is even more pronounced, the survey found. In Iowa in 2000, "people over 60 made up 25 percent of the voting age population but provided 39 percent of those who attended Democratic caucuses."

The Annenberg survey may shed light one why one presidential candidate, Rep. Richard Gephardt, D, Mo., will not participate on Tuesday in Boston. Gephardt, whose presidential ambitions hinge largely on winning the Iowa caucuses in January, may have bet that his time is better spent wooing older voters than going after the younger ones.

But if it's the elderly who matter, why are all the other candidates participating in a youth summit? Perhaps they were reading a different survey. In October, Harvard University's Institute of Politics released a national survey of 1,200 college students which showed undergraduates are more likely than in generations past to vote: 84 percent of college students report they will "definitely" or "probably" vote in the presidential election. As Dan Glickman, director of the Institute of Politics, told CBS News, "the engagement numbers have been rising since 9/11."

So why the discrepancy over who presidential hopefuls need to reach most? Maybe it has to do with a trend among younger voters to favor President Bush. The Annenberg study found that those over 60 backed Al Gore 51 to 47 percent over candidate Bush in 2000. Among young people, however, as Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie reminded reporters in Boston on Monday, "60 percent of college student approve of the job President Bush is doing for our country."

The Harvard survey also found, however, that 38 percent of young people were undecided. So for Democrats in a close race, the answer may be keeping the elderly base, but reaching out to young people at the same time.

Easier said than done.

Now That You're Not Running...: Now that Sen. Bob Graham of Florida has dropped out of the presidential race and declared he will not seek a fourth term in the U.S Senate, his former rivals are chomping at the bit to tell him what a great guy he is. During a battle it is a rare day when opponents highlight each other's strengths, but the Democratic presidential candidates must finally be convinced that Graham's no longer the enemy because it's all sunshine coming out of their mouths.

Calling him a leader on issues ranging from national security to the economy, Wesley Clark, said Graham's retirement means "the Senate will lose one of its strongest voices for a responsible, compassionate government that takes care of all of its citizens." Seeing that Clark and Graham competed for less than a month, they didn't have much time to spar over, but alas there is more. From Dick Gephardt: "Senator Bob Graham has been an outstanding public servant during his long and distinguished career." From Joe Lieberman: "I am proud to consider him a friend, and have been proud to stand side by side with him as New Democrats."

And from Howard Dean, who rarely lets a moment go by without slamming rivals for supporting the Iraq war, but often claimed solidarity with Graham as a fellow former governor: "Bob Graham has served the state of Florida and the United States with honor and distinction. He had the courage to ask the right questions last year when so many other lawmakers gave President Bush a blank check to invade Iraq."

Of course, now that they aren't competing they're all good friends who recognize Graham's service and distinction. Graham says he wants to continue his public work in the future, so who knows, maybe his campaign days aren't over quite yet.

Live From New York, It's … Al Sharpton?: That's right, fresh from his often funny performances in the Democratic presidential debates, the Rev. Al Sharpton has agreed to host Saturday Night Live on Dec. 6, the New York Times reports. While most pundits have panned the debates, Sharpton's humor has apparently broken through. The show's executive producer, Lorne Michaels, said Sharpton "is, to say the least, theatrical."

Sharpton will be SNL's first major political statement of the 2004 presidential campaign but his appearance marks another chapter in the comedy show's presidential involvement. In 2000, both then-candidate George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore taped pieces for the show. In the past, guests have included Rev. Jesse Jackson and Sen. John McCain, R, Ariz.

While Shaprton's appearance is in SNL's grand tradition, it is not without peril. In 2000, George W. Bush said he was "ambilavent" about his appearance because some of the show's material has been "offensible." Al Gore responded, "I was one of the very first to be offended by material on 'Saturday Night Live.'" While clever personal send-ups, the appearances probably did not win either candidate any new voters. Indeed, when Gore finally conceded in December of that year, the New York Times described him as "turning into a caricature of himself, as if he were mimicking Darrell Hammond's 'Saturday Night Live' parody of him."

Sharpton, however, is going ahead. The Rev told the New York Times, "Lorne and I talked and he assured me that it was going to be apolitical, though there may be some digs at me… It's as much risk as reward. You could look awkward or silly."

But for a presidential candidate, that is probably a daily calculation.

Quote of the Day: "Senator Graham's announcement has certainly created a blip on my radar screen." -- Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla., on Graham's announcement. (Lakeland Ledger)