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Washington Wrap

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

Missing Person: While the nine-pack of Democratic presidential candidates has practically made Iowa its second home, one 2004 presidential aspirant hasn't been to the state since last fall: President Bush.

The Des Moines Register reports Mr. Bush visited Iowa nine times between Jan. 2001 and Nov. 5, 2002. Since then, however, there hasn't been a single presidential visit.

Of course, part of Mr. Bush's absence can be attributed to the fact that he faces no opposition in the primaries, and therefore is not as obligated as the Democratic rivals to spend time in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. But, Mr. Bush narrowly lost Iowa to Al Gore in 2000 by just over 4,000 votes, and with Democrats roaming the state nonstop, the saturation level alone could pose problems for the president. (This weekend, for example, four of the nine Democrats – Bob Graham, Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman and Dennis Kucinich – were in the state for the annual picnic thrown by Gov. Tom Vilsack in Mount Pleasant.)

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Senate Finance Committee chairman with whom the Bush administration has had some political disagreements in recent months over the size of the latest tax cut, says he expects Mr. Bush to spend plenty of time in Iowa between now and November 2004.

"I expect him to be out here two or three more times this year, and quite a bit next year," Grassley told the Register. "He's been out here nine times already in a little over two years, so you know he's going to be out here that much over the next two years."

Mr. Bush has hired an Iowa native as his campaign political director, however. Terry Nelson, who used to work as staff director in the Iowa state Senate, recently did a "rally the troops" meeting in Des Moines.

In other Bush-Cheney'04 news, the re-election team moves into its northern Virginia headquarters this week. The campaign offices – one of the first concrete signs that the Bush-Cheney re-election operation is about to get into full swing – is in the Courthouse area of Arlington, just a quick Metro ride from the White House, where political adviser Karl Rove will remain.

Cat Fight: Florida Democratic senator and presidential candidate Bob Graham has put together his own version of President Bush's elite fundraising team. Graham's group, which he's labeling "the Bobcats," will be made up of individuals who raise at least $1,000 in small donations.

"George Bush and his supporters are raising $200 million or more to insure his reelection and the continuation of his tax-cutting agenda for his fat-cat friends," Graham wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "I need a different set of cats to defeat him and his agenda."

President Bush's Rangers will be raising $200,000 each compared to the BobCats $1,000, but Graham is trying to ratchet up his fundraising as well as his rhetoric as the June 30 deadline for second quarter fundraising approaches.

Graham has become increasingly vocal about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. According to the Des Moines Register, he accused the Bush administration of intentionally manipulating and politicizing intelligence information on extent of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The Miami Herald reports that Graham, whose campaign was saddled by a late start due to cardiac surgery and criticism that his speaking style is "rambling and dull," has been getting a lot of attention lately for his sharp attacks on Mr. Bush. However, he's failed to raise the emotions of Iowa Democrats so far on either the war or domestic issues. At Gov. Tom Vilsack's Democratic picnic, Howard Dean "roused the partisan crowd more than Graham's worldlier approach asking in Nixonian terms: What did the president know and when did he know it."

Graham's statements, however, have caught the attention of the Republican National Committee. Spokesman Chad Colby called them "outrageous" and said: "He's a conspiracy theorist. That's the only way he can get his name into the papers."

Buenos Dias, Republicanos: With Hispanics becoming an ever-increasing part of the political community, both parties are increasing their outreach efforts. Case in point: last week's announcement by Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Ill., that he's rounded up 19 House Republicans and one Senate GOPer to take Spanish classes.

The program, dubbed Spanish on the Hill, also includes over 50 House Republican staffers. The Republicans will take classes on the Hill once a week for 10 weeks using Spanish teachers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Graduate School.

"Republicans in Congress are eager to work with the Hispanic community on President Bush's agenda, and the launch of Spanish on The Hill shows we are serious about working with Spanish speaking America," Weller said in a statement.

The 20 Republicans is the largest number of participants in the program that was begun in 1999 by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

Of the 20 who signed up, only 15 showed up to the first class last week, reports the Associated Press. And of the 15, some had to leave the session early because of other commitments.

Democrats, meantime, feel that the Republicans need to do more than just learn the language of the Hispanic community.

"Actions count more than delivering a message in Spanish," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J. told the Washington Post. "Instead of learning Spanish, Republicans must understand the priorities of Hispanic families -- and those priorities do not include tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of 1.6 million Hispanic families who will not receive a child tax credit this year."

Political Week Ahead:

Mon. 6/9 - Hillary Rodham Clinton's book goes on sale.

Tues. 6/10 – Sen. Joe Lieberman campaigns in New Haven, Conn.

Tues. 6/10 – Sen. John Edwards' 50th birthday.

Tues. 6/10–6/11 – Hadassah Lieberman campaigns in New Hampshire.

Wed. 6/11 – President Bush touts his Medicare plan in Chicago.

Wed. 6/11 – Edwards speaks at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Washington.

Thurs. 6/12 – President Bush touts his Medicare plan in New Britain, Conn.

Thurs. 6/12 – Howard Dean campaigns in New Hampshire.

Thurs. 6/12 – Edwards campaigns in Nashville.

Thurs. 6/12 – Lieberman fundraiser in Stamford, Conn.

Thurs. 6/12-6/13 – Sen. John Kerry campaigns in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Fri. 6/14 – Carol Moseley Braun speaks to the National Newspaper Publishers Association annual convention in Baltimore

Fri. 6/13 – Edwards campaigns in Mason City, Algona and Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Fri. 6/13 – Rep. Dick Gephardt campaigns in New Hampshire.

Fri. 6/13 - Dean, Kerry, Rev. Al Sharpton and Elizabeth Edwards address Wisconsin Democratic Party state convention in Milwaukee.

Sat. 6/14 – Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Dinner. Gov. Bill Richardson,
D-N.M., to keynote.

Sat. 6/14 – Kerry campaigns in Dubuque, Waterloo, Olewein and New Hampton,

Sat. 6/14 – Braun speaks to the National Women's Political Caucus Conference in Washington. On Saturday evening, Braun speaks to the Florida A&M scholarship banquet in Newport News, Va.

Quote of the Day: "I will accept for me, but not my wife." – Sen. John Edwards, accepting a membership in the AARP over the weekend. Edwards, whose wife Elizabeth is 53, was in North Carolina attending several fundraisers timed to his 50th birthday on 6/10. (Raleigh News and Observer)