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Washington Wrap

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.

Dean's Plans to Fight Another Day: Trying to put the controversy about his sealed gubernatorial records to rest, Howard Dean released a statement Sunday saying that a recently filed lawsuit, which seeks access to the records, places the debate "in the hands of an unimpeachable third party." The lawsuit, filed by Judicial Watch, moves the controversial decision to the courts, "where it belongs," Dean said. With that issue hopefully moved to the backburner, the Dean campaign hopes to be able to concentrate on its primary strategy.

With new polls showing him continuing to lead the pack in Iowa and New Hampshire, Dean's campaign is pushing a Feb. 3 game plan. New televisions ads begin on Tuesday in South Carolina and Dean appeared in Columbia on Sunday with Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. The decision to go on air to the tune of "several million dollars" in the Feb 3 sates emphasizes the campaign's determination to "win every one of these states," campaign manager Joe Trippi told reporters on Friday. Trippi said they would begin airing ads in New Mexico Oklahoma and Arizona by December 16 and would announce plans for North Dakota, Delaware and Missouri "later."

The Dean team's decision to hit the airwaves comes amid new television attacks on Dean himself. Three attack ads are now running against Dean, two in Iowa and one in New Hampshire. One ad, paid for by a group called Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values, which is headed by Iowa Dem Sen. Tom Harkin's former campaign manager Tim Raftis, likens Dean's stance on guns to that of President Bush. The source of the group's funding is still not clear although the group's treasurer Don Jones once worked for Richard Gephardt, according to the Chicago Tribune Jones told CBS News that the ad was produced by Democratic media consultant Saul Shorr in Philadelphia. The other ad, run by the Lieberman's campaign, focuses on Dean's decision to keep the gubernatorial records secret but does not mention Dean by name.

The third ad, paid for by the Club for Growth, is running in Iowa and New Hampshire. It discusses Dean's tax policy and suggests his plan will raise the average families taxes by $1,900 a year. While the Dean campaign has dismissed the ad as false, the new Annenberg-affiliated group run by former Wall Street Journal reporter Brooks Jackson says the ad is "mostly right" and that Dean's plan would "mean big tax increases, often exceeding $1,000 even for middle-income families." As Dean hopes to move his records off the front pages and make his February 3 strategy the top story, he may have to deal with very difficult ad questions back in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Major League Apology?: John Kerry's use of the "f"-word in a new Rolling Stone article has drawn calls for an apology from the Bush administration.

"I've known John Kerry for a long time, and I'm very disappointed that he would use that kind of language," White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said on CNN Sunday. "I'm hoping that he's apologizing, at least to himself."

Card was reacting to Kerry's comments about President Bush's Iraq policy in which he said, "Did I expect George Bush to f*** it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did."

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter responded to Card Sunday saying, "I think the American people would rather Card and the rest of the White House staff spend more time on fixing Bush's flawed policy in Iraq than on Senator Kerry's language."

Incidentally, the Kerry campaign offered reporters three examples of how Card's boss, President Bush, had used terms - including the "f"-word - that would make a sailor blush.

The most publicized profane comments by Bush occurred just prior to the 2000 election when a microphone caught him calling New York Times reporter Adam Clymer "a major-league a**hole."

Meantime, the Boston Globe reports that the Kerry campaign is moving to lower their expectations in New Hampshire after a series of recent polls shows him way behind Howard Dean there.

The Globe said the campaign issued a memo over the weekend saying for the first time that Kerry is competing for "the top two" spots in the primary, not just for an all-out victory.

"Clearly, Senator Kerry is trailing in New Hampshire, by any reasonable measure, but there are a lot of people who went on to be president who didn't win New Hampshire," campaign spokesman Michael Meehan said.

A new Franklin Pierce College poll conducted Dec. 1-4 shows Kerry trailing Dean by 25 points, 39-14 percent, with 27 percent undecided. Tied for third, and only trailing Kerry by 9, are Wesley Clark and John Edwards at 5 percent each.

Clark's Accountability: Wesley Clark will begin running a new TV ad Tuesday in New Hampshire promising to be a leader that will "never forget" accountability.

"We need to get back to the simple principle that it's the duty of leaders -- whether in business or government -- to look out for the people they lead, not just for themselves," Clark says in the 30-second spot that features just a shot of him talking to the camera.

"Leaders have to keep their part of the bargain… and they have to expect to be held accountable. As president, I promise I'll never forget that."

Meantime, CBS News Early Show contributor and Congressional Quarterly columnist Craig Crawford reports in Congressional Quarterly that Clark raised some eyebrows in Florida with his stand on sanctions for Cuba.

Clark, seen by many Florida pros as a promising contender for the state's backing against Bush, recently stunned even his most ardent admirers with an impolitic call for softening relations with Cuba.

A few days before the Orlando convention, the former general campaigned in South Florida, where politicians of both parties usually call for something short of all-out war against the Communist government so hated by local Cuban immigrants.

In rambling responses to questions about economic sanctions against Cuba, Clark departed from the typically unyielding stance that Florida politicians adopt in favor of maintaining the embargo.

"In general embargoes normally, usually, they don't work, and they certainly haven't worked in the case of Cuba as far as ending the Castro regime,'' Clark said on Dec. 1. "We don't want to give a gift to Fidel Castro. But we do want to help the Cuban people achieve the same rights as everybody else in this hemisphere."

Raising doubts about the embargo puts Clark at odds with his major rivals, who unequivocally back sanctions. Howard Dean quickly reversed himself over the summer after initially saying he opposed the Cuban embargo. The former Vermont governor got some quick tutoring on Florida politics and now firmly backs sanctions.

It's Not Easy Beating Green: After losing the governorship, Democrats in California are pulling out all the stops to make sure that they don't lose another mainstay, the San Francisco mayor's seat. Although he didn't help Gray Davis much, former President Clinton will be in San Francisco on Monday for a final get-out-the vote- rally for Democratic candidate Gavin Newsome, who is in a tight contest against Green Party candidate Matt Gonzales, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mayor Willie Brown explained the situation well. "The Democrats have lost the mayorship of New York and the governorship of California – there is no way that they are going to give up San Francisco as well. They just can't afford it," Brown said. According to the Washington Post, recent polls show Gonzalez winning, tied or closing the gap on Newsom. Half of San Francisco's registered voters are Democrats compared to a mere three percent who are Greens. As recently as 2000, Gonzalez counted himself as one of these Democrats but after become disillusioned, he eventually switched parties saying, "I didn't want to give legitimacy to a party that lost its way."

The two candidates were the top vote getters in a nine-way election held on Nov.4 in which no candidate won a majority, leading to Tuesday's runoff election. Regardless of who wins, history will be made. Either Newsom, 36 or Gonzalez, 38, will be the youngest mayor ever to serve San Francisco.

In other Green Party news, Ralph Nader will attend a $100-a-head fund-raiser organized by the New Jersey Green Party on Thursday as he gauges both political and financial support for another possible presidential run, according to the Washington Post. Nader has already authorized the Nader 2004 Presidential Exploratory Committee to start raising money and he has said he will announce his intentions at some point this month.

Florida: Katherine Harris, despite not officially being in the race, leads the GOP field in the race to take over the Senate seat of retiring Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla. On the Democratic side, former state education commissioner and college president Betty Castor, who has actually entered the race, leads the field.

The AP reports that the latest poll -- taken between Dec. 1 and Dec. 3 by Schroth & Associates and The Polling Company – showed Harris leading a prospective GOP field with 29 percent. She was followed by former Rep. Bill McCollum with 15 percent and Housing Secretary Mel Martinez at 11 percent.

The poll, however, was taken before Friday's news that Martinez, a Cuban-American former chief executive of Orlando-containing Orange County, plans to resign to run for the Senate. For her part, Harris continues consulting with advisers on whether or not to enter the race. Some Republicans fear Harris will be a polarizing figure if she runs because of her role in the 2000 recount. Martinez, former chief executive of Orlando and its metro area, reportedly has been urged to run by the White House.

Castor led the Democrats with 28 percent. She was trailed by Rep. Peter Deutsch with 17 percent and Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas with 15 percent.

Most importantly, perhaps, a huge chunk of voters remain undecided: 40 percent on the Democratic side and 38 percent on the GOP's.

Quote of the Day: "Howard's strategy is to knock me out in Iowa and knock Kerry out in New Hampshire. If that happens, it's over." -- Dick Gephardt on Howard Dean's surging campaign. (Time)

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