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Washington Wrap

Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Beth Lester, Clothilde Ewing and Sean Sharifi of the CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital.



Friday's Headlines

* Dean's Negative Comments on Caucuses Draw Fire from Rivals

* Fur Flying in Iowa

* Clark Courts Women Voters

* Yes, Virginia, the GOP Is Holding Caucuses in Iowa

* Dean Still Favorite of Democratic Insiders

At Least He Didn't Criticize Ethanol Subsidies: Howard Dean said four years ago that the Iowa caucuses are "dominated by special interests" and "don't represent the centrist tendencies of the American people, they represent the extremes." Dean's comments on the Jan. 15, 2000 Canadian PBS program "The Editors" were aired on NBC News on Thursday and have his rivals and some Iowa Democrats howling.

The New York Times takes a look at Dean's comments and what impact they might have on the topsy-turvy world of Iowa presidential politics. Dean told the AP on Friday: "Four years ago, I didn't really understand the Iowa caucuses," as is obvious by his comments about rhw caucuses lasting eight hours on Saturdays. Dean also made the ultimate campaign pledge: "I support the Iowa caucus and I have already promised Gordon Fischer that if elected, the Iowa caucus will be first again in 2008."

John Kerry and Dick Gephardt, in a death match with Dean in Iowa, leaped on his comments, the Times reports. "Which Howard Dean are Iowans going to vote for, the one who insults them, or the one who will soon be releasing yet another clarifying statement?" Kerry said. Added Gephardt: "The remarks he made about the Iowa caucuses to me are unbelievable. I guess I'd ask him a question: Who are the special interests dominating this caucus? Is it the farmers? Is it organized labor? Is it senior citizens?"

As if Dean needed any more bad news in the Times today: "In dozens of conversations with voters across central Iowa over the past three days, it became clear that some Democrats are taking a second look at" Dean. One voter, Laura Sims, told the paper of record: "I don't know why, but there is just something that makes me uncomfortable about Dean."

Let's Get Ready to Rumble: With 10 days until the Iowa caucuses, campaign managers for Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt – the two front-runners in the state – exchanged heated letters over the rumor that nonresidents will try to participate in the caucuses the Washington Post reports.

While both camps boast of the best organization and out-of-state volunteers, the Gephardt camp once again has accused the Dean campaign of conspiring to use some of their non-Iowan supporters to illegally vote for Dean, thus violating caucus rules. Iowa's liberal voter registration laws allow voters to register at the door and require no proof of residency, which opens the door to campaigns using non-resident ringers.

Mark Daley, a spokesman for the Democratic Party said he received a pledge from candidates not to engage in such tactics, and that even if they try it would be difficult to fool people in such a small state. "We know what to look for -- obviously if a car full of people with out-of-state plates and funny accents walk in, alarms are going to go on."

The not-to-be-forgotten Kerry campaign also jumped into the fray when Iowa State Director John Norris demanded that Jeanni Murray, Dean's state director, fire two campaign volunteers who tried to pass themselves off as Iowa voters interested in the Kerry operation. CBS News has received a letter sent by Murray saying that they investigated the matter and "determined it was necessary to terminate these two individuals who recently joined our campaign."

As if this weren't enough, the Boston Globe reports how vote-swapping on caucus night could determine the outcome of the Democratic presidential contest here, according to advisers for several campaigns who are mapping their strategies. With candidates required to win at least 15 percent of the voters in each precinct to survive, strategists assume a number of candidates will fall short, which will ultimately free their caucus voters to support other campaigns. With cell phones and blackberries abounding this year precincts caucus attendees may get direction from the state directors on how to proceed once the caucuses are under way.

As Madonna Goes... Perhaps building on Madonna, who endorsed Wesley Clark "not only as a celebrity but as an American citizen and a mother," it now appears that the Clark campaign is reaching out to women everywhere.

As the New York Times reports, Clark has changed his style on the stump, trading suits and ties for sweaters and duck boots in an effort to look more approachable. And the change is not just cosmetic: the Clark campaign is now waging an all out effort to eliminate what appears to be a "gender gap" among supporters, according to Clark pollster Geoff Garin. The imbalance, with men far outnumbering women among supporters, seems to stem from Clark's military career. Said the candidate himself to the Times, "I think there's an impression that the armed forces is a male-dominated, hierarchical, authoritarian institution…And I think they have to get to know me."

The gender gap is well illustrated in New Hampshire, where Clark has pulled up to 20 points in the latest American Research Group poll. Although Howard Dean leads Clark 35 to 20 among the whole sample, among men Dean only leads by 2 points, 30 to 28. Among women, however, Dean leads Clark by a very large margin, 40 to 13.

To counteract this split between men and women, the Clark campaign is using more women to introduce him to crowds, convening a network of women to discuss how to sway female voters and making a former army major – who is female – the headliner in a new ad. The television spot features Major Pat Williams (Ret.), who served under Gen. Clark in the First Cavalry Division saying, "Even though he was the commanding general, you were never left to feel less than, regardless of your rank, your gender or your race." And the strategy may be working: Although the ARG poll shows Clark still trails Dean among women by 27 points, at the beginning of this week, Dean led by 36 points.

It's Their Fight, Too: While President Bush does not plan to travel to either Iowa or New Hampshire on their respective election nights, the Bush-Cheney campaign is sending some high-profile surrogates to each state to steal a tiny bit of the Democrats' spotlight and crow about Mr. Bush's certain victory in each state.

In Iowa, where the GOP is holding caucuses in all 1,997 precincts to handle state party business and start the process of electing Bush delegates (but not doing straw polls like in competitive years), the Bush campaign tells CBS News the surrogate team will include campaign manager Ken Mehlman, campaign chairman Marc Racicot, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, former administration official Mary Matalin and Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. The surrogates will fly to Iowa on caucus day.

The Iowa state party also plans to hold a caucus-night party, probably at their headquarters in Des Moines.

In addition to some of the Iowa surrogates above, the New Hampshire roster includes President Bush's sister, Dorothy Bush Koch; New York Gov. George E. Pataki; and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who beat Mr. Bush in the state in 2000. The surrogates will start arriving four days before the Jan. 27 primary. The campaign plans to have surrogates in each New Hampshire media market.

Democratic Insiders Poll: Dean is still leading in this week's National Journal Insiders Poll, losing one first place nod but staying far ahead of his nearest rival, Richard Gephardt. Wesley Clark stays in third place, with one Insider saying, "Clark, with his money, is positioning himself as the anti-Dean." Further down in the pack, John Kerry moves back into fourth place, bumping John Edwards back into fifth.

Kerry's movement in the Insiders poll may reflect his improving fortunes in Iowa, as the New York Times reports, but in this week's secondary question – which two of the top six candidates will be the first to drop out – Kerry also leads the pack. On the first-out score, Kerry is at the top with 29 votes, followed by Joe Lieberman with 25 votes, John Edwards with 18 and Dick Gephardt with 16. Looks like the Insiders, even if they think Kerry is improving, do not think it will have much effect.

Still Debating: The three long-shot candidates, Dennis Kucinich, Carol Mosley Braun and Al Sharpton, who are hoping to make a splash in Washington's non-binding January 13 primary, were in DC Friday in a WTOP sponsored debate. Organizers were furious at front-runner Howard Dean for skipping the debate and had an empty chair on the stage for him. The first question of the debate was directed at the absent Dean, questioning his concern for the citizens of the District. The final question of the debate was also aimed at Dean by Al Sharpton, who then sat in Dean's empty seat and mimicked an angry response.

Dean is campaigning today in New Hampshire.

On Sunday, Iowa will host all of the candidates (save Wesley Clark) in the in the Brown & Black Forum, the last opportunity for the candidates to debate each other before the Jan. 19 caucuses. The forum, which will air on MSNBC at 8-10 p.m., is sponsored by Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum – a non-partisan minority issues organization and will focus on where the candidates stand on issues concerning minority voters.

Harkin Watch: CBS News has learned that Sen. Tom Harkin will endorse Howard Dean today at 4 p.m. EST at Dean's headquarters in Des Moines.

On Friday and Saturday, former Vice President Al Gore will campaign for Dean in Iowa. Also on Saturday, Ted Kennedy will be in Iowa to campaign for John Kerry. Kerry was endorsed on Friday by the Quad City Times and expects a nod from popular Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.

Politics Galore from CBS News this Sunday: Dick Gephardt will be Bob Schieffer's guest on "Face the Nation" on Sunday morning; and on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday evening, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill talks with Lesley Stahl about serving in the Bush administration. Among other things, he says President Bush was so disengaged in cabinet meetings that he "was like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people."

Quote of the Day: "The only thing I can say is that it's amazing what politicians will do when the election is approaching." -- John Edwards on Howard Dean saying he'd lower middle-class taxes, despite calling for a repeal of all of the Bush tax cuts, including those for the middle class, for much of the campaign. (The New York Times)

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