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Washington Wrap

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

Edwards Is Officially Out ... And In: Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., officially abandoned any thoughts of running for re-election to the Senate last night in order to concentrate on his presidential run.

"I will not seek re-election to the United States Senate, in order to devote all of my energy to running for President," wrote Edwards in a letter to North Carolina Democratic Party chairwoman Barbara Allen.

The letter ends weeks of speculation and Edwards' dodging of questions about what he was going to do – abandon either his Senate run or his presidential run, or simply run for both simultaneously.

"He is ready and eager to move on to the next phase," Edwards spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri told the AP.

North Carolina Democrats were itching to hear what Edwards' plans were, especially since Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Burr started campaigning for the seat. Democrats waiting on the sidelines, including former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles and state House Speaker Dan Blue, can now make their moves.

"Obviously it settles one set of questions," Scott Falmlen, executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party told the New York Times. "Now the candidates know the situation and can make their decisions."

Edwards said his decision to pursue the Democratic presidential nomination was an easy one, even though he hasn't made much of an impact yet among the field of nine candidates.

"I just finished three weeks campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire," he wrote. "The response was overwhelmingly positive."

He also pointed to a recent poll in South Carolina that shows him leading the others with 10 percent. "The poll this week showing us ahead in South Carolina is only the latest sign of the success we're having."

Dean Still Ahead In N.H.: Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean – who visited all three morning news programs Monday reacting to President Bush's speech on Iraq – still leads Sen. John Kerry in New Hampshire, according to a Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll. But Dean's 12-point edge isn't as large as the 21-point lead he held in a late-August Zogby poll.

The poll of 400 likely Democratic primary voters (Dems and independents) shows Dean with 38 percent and Kerry with 26 percent. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.

"Obviously, it's an indecisive moment and people are fishing around, and the number of people who are willing to jump one way or another is still very, very large," Wellesley College political science professor Alan Schechter told the Globe.

Interestingly, a majority of Dean's support comes from those who backed Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in 2000. Fifty-four percent of McCain backers said they intend to vote for Dean, while only 15 percent are behind Kerry.

However, when asked which Democrat they think could beat President Bush, the numbers are closer; 28 percent pick Dean, 26 percent pick Kerry. Dean supporters aren't as confident about their candidate if he happens to become the Democratic nominee; only 67 percent of those who back Dean think he could beat President Bush. In a silver lining for Kerry, 80 percent of his supporters believe he could win next November.

"The Kerry people have to be encouraged," said Jennifer Donahue, senior adviser for political affairs at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. "Kerry missed the starting gun, and he seems to have a chance now. That 80 percent think he can beat Bush is significant."

150 Close Friends And No Talk of '04: According to Newsday, the much-heralded Hillary Clinton Finance Council meeting was held Sunday night in Chappaqua to strategize about her re-election campaign in 2006, not a bid for the White House in 2004. So off the agenda was talk of a presidential run that the group listened to a talk by former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta rather than tune in to President Bush's address on Iraq, the paper reports.

Both Sen. Clinton and former President Clinton were there and she briefed the group about her recent activities, including her attempt to block President Bush's appointments to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Both Clintons spoke to the Teamsters on Saturday in D.C. and she again pushed her decision to block the EPA appointments. Next Saturday, the former president heads to Iowa to Sen. Tom Harkin's big steak fry, and then to California for a series of ex-presidential events and, presumably, some campaigning with Gov. Gray Davis.

Maria: After playing an off-stage role in the past few weeks Maria Shriver, the NBC News correspondent and Kennedy cousin, is going public in defense of her husband, California gubernatorial hopeful Arnold Schwarzenegger.

According to the L.A. Times, Shriver, who has taken a leave from NBC during the campaign, is speaking out about how supportive her husband has been of her career, "implicitly shielding him from charges that he disrespects women." On Monday, she will do three events as a surrogate, including two fundraisers and a voter registration event. The Times quotes her friend, Wanda McDaniels, saying that Shriver told her, " I wish I were covering this story … In fact, I wish I was covering me."

The Times says Shriver has been deeply involved in the campaign behind the scenes and that she was primarily responsible for the campaign's hiring Republican media advisor Mike Murphy. Her brother, Timothy Shriver, says there's "nobody on the planet that he (Arnold) respects more than her."

One Republican political consultant told CBS News that he thinks of Maria as a "Perfect Storm" of a political wife. "She thinks she knows everything about media, everything about politics and everything about Arnold." Watch out.

Speaking of watching out, Schwarzenegger went ballistic over a remark by Davis, who told a voter on Saturday at a union picnic you shouldn't be governor unless you can "pronounce the name of the state." Schwarzenegger, who is vulnerable on the issue of giving social services to immigrants, demanded a formal apology from Davis.

Political Week Ahead:

Monday 9/8:
President Bush headlines a Bush-Cheney '04 fundraiser in Nashville. Vice President Cheney attends fundraiser in Cincinnati for Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Ernie Fletcher and travels from there to Roanoke, Va., for a Bush-Cheney fundraiser. Howard Dean addresses a rally at the University of Maryland. John Edwards holds town hall meeting in Merrimack, N.H.. Dean, Edwards, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Lieberman and Carol Moseley Braun address the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at the Washington Hilton. Bob Graham campaigns in Iowa in the morning before traveling to New York for an evening fundraiser. Kucinich speaks at the U.N. before attending the SEIU meeting. AL Sharpton campaigns in St. Louis on Monday.

Another powerful union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, will hear from several of the Democratic candidates in private meetings on Monday and Tuesday. Lieberman, Kerry, Gephardt and Dean visit the AFSCME leadership meeting on Monday. Sharpton, Edwards and Moseley Braun stop-by AFSCME on Tuesday.

Other: U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on legal challenges to the McConnell v. FEC Campaign Finance Reform Act; arguments will last four hours.

Tuesday 9/9:
President Bush attends fundraisers in Jacksonville and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Edwards addresses "Politics & Eggs" in Bedford, N.H. and then campaigns in Derry. Kerry visits a child car center in Baltimore.

Democrats: Congressional Black Caucus holds its Democratic presidential debate at Morgan State University in Baltimore at 8pm EDT. All but Graham take part.

Wednesday 9/10:
President Bush meets with the Kuwaiti prime minister and speaks on homeland security at the FBI training center in Quantico, Va. Kerry holds campaign event with pop star Moby in Boston. Lieberman raises money in New Jersey.

Thursday 9/11:
President Bush attends services at St. John's Church, observes a moment of silence at the Executive Mansion and visits with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed. Kerry visits Morgan State University in Columbia, S.C. Graham raises money in New York.

Friday 9/12:
President Bush raises money for Mississippi GOP gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour in Jackson. Cheney raises money for North Carolina GOP Senate candidate Rep. Richard Burr in Raleigh. Lieberman raises money in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, Fla.

Saturday 9/13:
Sen. Tom Harkin hosts steak fry with former President Clinton and several of the Democratic presidential candidates in Indianola, Iowa.

Quote of the Day: "Gary Hart has a reason to be in the United States Senate." - Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Chairman John Corzine talking about why he hopes Gary Hart will challenge Republican Benn Nighthorse Campbell for Senate in Colorado in 2004. (Roll Call)