Washington Wrap

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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.

SEIU Ready to Endorse Dean: CBS News has been told that SEIU officials called several campaigns, including Dick Gephardt's, yesterday afternoon to say they expect to endorse Howard Dean when their 63 member board meets today. Union officials said Tuesday that Dean has "done everything right" as far as communicating with the board over the last few months. This weekend he consulted with several of them after his remarks on the Confederate flag in Iowa caused widespread outrage.

Union officials have been saying for a week that "it's Dean or no one" as far as the endorsement goes, and that only Dean had inspired any passion among its members. The SEIU is the largest of the AFL-CIO unions and has a sizeable number of minority members. A press conference with SEIU President Andy Stern to announce the decision is scheduled for 3pm Thursday in Washington, D.C.

In more good news for Dean, a New Hampshire poll conducted November 2-5 by AIG has Dean at 38 percent and Kerry at 24 percent. In the "hot" contest for third place Wesley Clark, John Edwards and Joe Lieberman are all at 4 percent. Dick Gephardt comes in with 3 percent.

General Election Debate Dates And Sites Proposed: The Commission on Presidential Debates has proposed four debate (three presidential and one vice presidential) dates and sites for the 2004 general election:

  • Presidential: Thurs., Sept. 30, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fla.
  • Vice Presidential: Tues., Oct. 5, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Presidential: Fri., Oct. 8, Washington University, St Louis, Mo.
  • Presidential: Wed., Oct. 13, Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz.

    The number of debates, the dates, and the locations have not been agreed to by the parties or candidates - and if history is any guide they probably won't be until the fall. One of the rituals of September is the debate over debates. A few weeks ago, Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman told CBS News that they had not made any decision about dealing with the commission this time.

    One of the reasons the Commission puts out these dates and sites early is to set a marker. They expect negotiation with the campaigns - including over the Friday date should Senator Lieberman become the Democratic nominee.

    Hometown Liberals Diss Joe: The Lieberman campaign Wednesday pulled out of the Caucus of Connecticut Democrats when it became clear that the senator's local constituents would not endorse him, the Hartford Courant reports.

    The CCD, which will hold its meeting Saturday, has about 600 members and is the liberal wing of the Connecticut's Democratic party. As a result, Lieberman may not be terribly surprised about losing the endorsement. Indeed, the CCD has not endorsed the centrist Connecticut Democrat since his first run for US Senate in 1988. As Democratic State Party Chairman George Jepsen told the Courant, "[CCD members] are nice people but they're parked out on the far left and they're very out of touch with mainstream Democratic politics."

    The catch is that Lieberman was a founding member of the group in the late 1960s when it was a vehicle for many state Democrats to protest the Vietnam War. And even if Lieberman's views have shifted since then, the CCD's decision could also be seen as another in a string of disappointments for the Lieberman campaign. As CCD organizer (and Dean supporter) attorney Bruce Rubenstein noted, "He pulled out of Iowa … Now he's pulling out of this and very soon he'll be pulling out of the presidential race. Or, he will be beaten here in Connecticut."

    Lieberman has been endorsed by Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Rep. John Larsen, state AG Richard Blumenthal, state Treasurer Denise Nappier and state Controller Nancy Wyman so it seems like the elected officials are hanging in there.

    Tight As A Tube Sock In Louisiana: Ed Gillespie could be four-for-four in this fall's gubernatorial contests. Or, just as easily it seems, it could be Terry McAuliffe's chance to crow on Nov. 15.

    Democrat Kathleen Blanco and Republican Bobby Jindal are running neck-and-neck in the last week and change before Louisiana's Nov. 15 gubernatorial election. It's so close that the New Orleans Times-Picayunne's lead on the latest polls reads simply: "It's too close to call."

    One poll, by the Survey Research Center at the University of New Orleans, puts Jindal at 44 percent and Blanco at 40 percent – well within the margin of error. In another poll, done by Loyola University political scientist Ed Renwick for WWL-TV, shows Blanco leading Jindal 39 percent to 38 percent.

    The same survey shows Jindal leading Blanco in New Orleans 41 percent to 32 percent. New Orleans' Democratic mayor, Ray Nagin endorsed Jindal on Monday, but the poll was taken before the endorsement and could not have influenced the results, the Times-Picayunne reports.

    The director of the University of New Orleans poll says the closeness of the race means turnout will be decisive.

    "In many ways this election is a typical partisan contest between a Republican and a Democrat," Susan Howell told the paper, explaining that black voters appear to be supporting Blanco, the Democrat, and white voters leaning toward Jindal, the Republican. But, Howell points out, Jindal has polled better than most GOP gubernatorial candidates among all black voters, with 17 percent. That figures drops to 12 percent when likely black voters are polled.

    "What this says to me is that if we have low turnout, as we did in the primary, then Jindal's got the slight lead," Howell said.

    The most important figure, perhaps, is the 8 percent of Louisiana voters who remain undecided.

    Governor Rudy? He's been out of office less than two years and has racked up a pretty penny in the private sector, but word has it that Rudolph Giuliani may jump back into the political fray. According to the New York Daily News, Gov. Pataki and other top state Republicans are quietly urging Giuliani to consider a run for the governor's mansion.

    The News says that Pataki is leaning against a fourth term (hint, hint, he's speaking in Iowa at their big GOP dinner this Friday night) and he's sent the message that Giuliani is the logical choice to replace him. Since leaving office Giuliani has never been too far from the limelight, campaigning for several GOP candidates and lending his hand to his successor, Mayor Bloomberg, in an unsuccessful effort to ban partisan primary elections.

    As for his day job, Giuliani is focused on his business, Giuliani Partners, making speeches that pull in more than $100,000 each, and, of course, reelecting President Bush. As for politics, "Politically, he is focused on getting the President and the vice president reelected," said Tony Carbonetti, a long-time Giuliani adviser. "And then he will focus on himself, because he definitely envisions himself one day returning to public service."

    Back in September Giuliani said he was considering a return to public life "maybe two or three years from now." Enquiring minds figure running for office in 2006 just about fits into that time frame.

    Quote of the Day: "As a bachelor I can only fantasize about a first lady. ... Maybe Fox wants to sponsor a national contest." - Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, at a New Hampshire forum on "women's issues." (