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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.



Wednesday's Headlines:

* Bush Campaign Raises Record-setting $130.8 Million in 2003

* Dean Aide Cries Foul Over Caucus

* Clark Gets Some Mo'

* Most Connecticut Voters Want Embattled Governor to Resign

* Montana Governor to Eat Roast Beef Sandwich

Bush Breaks His Own Fundraising Record (Again): The Bush-Cheney fundraising juggernaut (no, Ed, that's not another Hitler-Bush comparison) continues. In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman said the campaign raised $130.8 million in 2003, including $47 million in the fourth quarter alone. Asked if the campaign intends to go beyond its stated fundraising goal of $170 million, the coy Mehlman replied simply, "Stay tuned."

In the fourth quarter, Mehlman said the campaign raised $32 million at events attended by the president, $14 million via direct mail and $1 million online.

The Bush-Cheney campaign has $99 million cash on hand.

President Bush will fill his party's coffers even more during an RNC fundraising luncheon Wednesday in Washington. On Thursday, he heads to the beating heart of Florida Recount country, Palm Beach County, for a $2,000-a-head Bush-Cheney funder. The Florida Times-Union reports that Mr. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, will warm up the Floridian donors on Wednesday at a thank-you event for Rangers and Pioneers.

Play Nice, Boys: Just 12 days away from the first in the nation caucuses, Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi is accusing rival campaigns of disrupting his organizing strategy, the New York Times reports. Trippi charged that both John Kerry and Dick Gephardt have harassed some of Dean's "fervent" supporters with as many as 20 computerized phone calls causing Dean supporters to stop answering their phones. The Dean camp is trying to recruit supports to be precinct campaigns for caucus night. Not surprisingly, advisers to both camps deny the charges.

The race in Iowa is getting hot. Sources from several campaigns have told CBS News that Kerry, who is lagging in New Hampshire, is spending "gobs" of money in Iowa and is closing in on Gephardt for the number two position. Kerry has a good organization in Iowa and identifying precinct captains and turning out voters is the name of the game now. Dean does not have the lead in Iowa that he has in New Hampshire and it will the first test of his campaign's ability to translate its grassroots Internet support into votes at the polls.

This may explain why Gephardt turned his focus from Dean to Kerry on Tuesday, saying that Kerry's push for a Social Security tax holiday for workers and their employers is a "risky proposal," the Washington Post reports. Of course, Kerry didn't let Gephardt have all the fun choosing to lump him together with Dean, claiming their "support for repealing all of Bush's tax cuts would fall hardest on families struggling to pay higher health care and tuition costs and property taxes."

Clark On the Move: Wesley Clark appears to be gaining some momentum, both nationally and in the critical state of New Hampshire, where he has moved into second place behind front-runner Howard Dean.

A new American Research Group poll in New Hampshire shows Howard Dean remaining in first place, with 37 percent of the vote. In the crucial second and third place spots, however, Clark pulls ahead of John Kerry, inching up to 16 percent of the vote compared with Kerry's 13 percent. This tracking poll, for the nights of January 4 through 6, is the first time Clark has bested Kerry in the Granite State. For more on the crucial politics of coming in second, the New York Times has strategy galore.

Beyond New Hampshire, Clark also seems to be picking up steam. In a new CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll, Clark pulls to within four points of leader Howard Dean, at 20 percent to Dean's 24. The other candidates trickle in, with Kerry a distant third with 11 percent of the vote.

Clark's surge may be due to interest in his new tax proposal, which would significantly alter the tax structure for families earning less than $100,000 a year. Announced Monday, the plan may even be causing Howard Dean to take note: the Dean economics team is now "unanimously" backing a middle class tax cut. As the Boston Globe reports, this would be a major "revamping" of Dean's central policies, perhaps reconsidering his stance in light of the Clark plan's seeming popularity.

The Worm Turns: A new Quinnipiac University poll finds that 56 percent of Connecticut voters want embattled Republican Gov. John Rowland to step down, while 34 percent want him to stay. Just 44 percent wanted him to step down on Dec. 17. The New Haven Register reports that Rowland will make a televised address at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Who Me Worry? In an attempt to buck-up cattle ranchers and calm concerns over mad cow disease, Republican Gov. Judy Marz will "publicly eat a roast beef sandwich" on Friday at a cattle sale at the Montana Livestock Company. The beef will come from a cow raised and processed in Montana, the Missoulian reports.

Quote of the Day: "I do not intend to drag her around because I think I need her as a prop on the campaign trail." – Howard Dean on his wife, Judy Steinberg. (AP)

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