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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.

On the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush and most of the Democratic candidates decided to put their campaigns on hold, choosing to either attend memorial services or staying completely out of the public eye.

In line with the wishes of some of the families of 9/11 victims that the day be one of national service, John Kerry attended a memorial service in Boston before heading to a veterans' homeless shelter to help prepare meals. Joe Lieberman attended a memorial service in Miami and then heads to a private fund-raiser in the evening. Howard Dean, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt and Dennis Kucinich all have no public appearances scheduled. The lone exception is Sen. Bob Graham, who is on the stump speaking about the war on terror two years after the attacks to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Thursday.

While it's a quiet day on the hustings, there is a lot of politics going on behind the scenes.

Clark At The 90 Percent Mark: A DNC source tells CBS News that Chairman Terry McAuliffe talked with retired Gen. Wesley Clark a couple of nights ago and Clark said he was 90 percent ready to enter the presidential race. He and McAuliffe then discussed the nuts and bolts of campaigns.

(The Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, of which McAuliffe is a charter member, is known to want Clark in the mix to show that Democrats have expertise in military and international issues. The Bill Cohen wing of the Clinton wing is said to be less impressed by a Clark candidacy.)

Clark told members of the Draft Clark group who had dinner with him in Los Angeles on Sunday that he'd let them know his decision "next week," but they came away "optimistic."

Clark had a busy schedule in Los Angeles. Dean campaign sources confirm a meeting in Los Angeles between Howard Dean and Clark. They say that while they hope something can be put together (campaign chairman, VP, Secretary of State, first Dean grandchild?), they think Clark is headed toward a run. They say the two have had very cordial relations, and at this point are not adversaries, but they worry a bit about Clark's ability to capture the anti-Iraq activists and his strength on the Internet. On the other hand, the Deanies feel Clark could be an even bigger threat to John Kerry, who, up until now, had the strongest military credentials in the field.

The Kerry campaign told the Washington Post that he has also talked to Clark in the past week. Other Democratic candidates have reached out to Clark as well, including Dick Gephardt, although he hasn't talked to him in a while. Clark speaks in Tennessee this Saturday and the big Iowa speech is on Sept. 19.

Stay tuned.

No Rush To Endorse: The Service Employees International Union ended their conference this week in Washington, D.C., without endorsing a Democratic presidential candidate.

SEIU president Andrew Stern praised Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, John Edwards and Al Sharpton on Wednesday, but was coy about naming a frontrunner. The Associated Press reports that a survey of the 1,500 conference participants shows Dean and Gephardt as the top contenders, with Edwards pushing Kerry off the top three list, although that's only a small sample of the SEIU's 1.6 million members.

Stern denied a report that Kerry was out of the running, indicating that he has considerable support in polls and focus groups conducted before the meeting, but implying that his performance at the meeting was not very impressive.

About Dean, Stern indicated that he was received enthusiastically and members were "incredibly overwhelmed" by his speech. He added that Gephardt increased his support, Edwards "introduced himself powerfully," Kerry has "considerable support" and members "rallied around Sharpton's remarks." Stern also mentioned that the union will take a look at retired Gen. Wesley Clark if he throws his hat in the ring, and added that union leaders will meet with him in the next couple of weeks.

The big winners in this round are Dean and Edwards; the losers, Gephardt and Kerry. Gephardt is a favorite of unions and is angling to get the AFL-CIO's overall endorsement, for which he needs two-thirds support of the AFL's members. The SEIU is the largest union in the AFL-CIO.

Stern added that because over 60 percent of the union isn't ready for an endorsement, they'll hold off for now.

Meantime, a new Zogby poll taken Monday and Tuesday in Iowa shows Dean taking the lead among the Democrats with 23 percent, which parallels some private polls as well. He jumped 17 percent from the last Zogby poll taken in April.

Gephardt was in second place, dropping 8 points to 17 percent, while Kerry was third with 11 percent. Edwards increased from 4 to 6 percent to take fourth. Another loser seems to be Joe Lieberman, who dropped from 17 percent in a January Zogby poll to 4 percent in this week's.

Gephardt, for whom Iowa is a must-win state, has decided to join six of the other Democrats at Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry on Saturday, according to the AP. Gephardt will lead off the speakers. He'll be followed by Carol Moseley Braun, Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Dennis Kucinich and Bob Graham.

Me Too: John Kerry tells the Boston Globe that he'll forgo public financing – and the spending limits that come with it – if his rival, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, decides to bypass federal matching funds.

Although Dean sent a letter to the Federal Elections Commission this summer indicating that he would accept the matching funds and spending limitations, his insurgent campaign's fund-raising success in the second quarter might give him reason to change his mind. Dean has said he'll make a decision on whether or not to accept the federal matching funds in the early fall, presumably after seeing how well he does this quarter. His campaign manager predicted last month that Dean would top $10 million in the period ending Sept. 30. Most political observers think the $10 million mark is a low-ball estimate.

Kerry told the Globe, "If Howard Dean decides to go live outside of it, I'm not going to wait an instant. Decision's made. I'll go outside. Absolutely. I'm not going to disarm."

Kerry's stance is a bit of a shift from late August, the Globe reports, when he said he'd "reserve the right" to eschew the matching funds if Dean did so.

By skipping the matching funds, Kerry and Dean would be able to spend more than the FEC's estimated maximum of $729,000 for the New Hampshire primary.

Kerry used the matching funds issues – and Dean's letter to the FEC indicating he'd accept the spending limits – to level some of his harshest criticism yet on Dean.

"Somebody who wants to be president ought to keep their word," Kerry said. "I think it goes to the core of whether you are a different politician or a politician of your word or what you are."

Dean's campaign manager, Joe Trippi, told the Globe that Dean's surprising fund-raising success means the "facts have changed" regarding his letter to the FEC. He did not respond to Kerry's critique.

"I think a couple of million Americans giving $77 is totally within the spirit of our democracy," Trippi told the Globe. "I don't think writing a check to yourself or collecting bundled money is." Trippi was alluding, presumably, to the Bush campaign's Rangers and Pioneers, who collect large sums of money from various individual contributors and, of course, the possibility that Kerry might use personal (read Heinz-Kerry) funds to bolster his campaign coffers.

Kerry and Dean both appeared to get a green light from Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who said Wednesday that the party's presidential candidates should consider opting out of the primary public financing, the New York Times reports. Although no Democratic presidential candidate has opted out since the matching fund system was created in the aftermath of Watergate, the Bush campaign did so in 2000 and will do so again this time, with at least $170 million to spend before the August Republican convention.

McAuliffe is concerned that if the Democratic nominee accepts the federal funds and spending limits, he or she will be financially hamstrung, possibly for several months, between the end of the primaries and the DNC's late July convention.

"We need to make sure we are prepared," McAuliffe said. "We are going against an incumbent president with unlimited amounts of money. We have to make sure we can get our message out."

Bloodbath: California Republicans are worried about party rivalries at this weekend's state GOP convention. One Republican source told CBS News that this is "our twice-a-year shooting match" and that the convention rarely lacks fireworks.

With Republican activists divided between moderate Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger and the conservative state Sen. Tom McClintock, the convention could bring the moderate-conservative fight to a head. McClintock has been urging a debate with Schwarzenegger, but state party chairman Duf Sundheim has nixed the idea, saying that it would be a "bloodbath in public."

McClintock is getting pressure from members of the Republican Party and Schwarzenegger's team to drop out, but, so far, he's dug in his heels. Sources have suggested that it would take something "very big" to get him out (maybe an offer of state budget director, maybe an intervention from President Bush.) But, when asked whether he plans to stay in the race, McClintock is steadfast. "I find myself having to answer that question over and over again," he told the L.A. Times. "I can't think of a clearer way to put it: I'm in this race till the finish line."

Both candidates will get a chance to address the convention on Saturday, but with the hopes of controlling the audience, they have decided to speak at separate ticketed events rather than to the convention as a whole. Schwarzenegger is scheduled to address the Saturday lunch and McClintock will take his turn a few hours later at dinner. Sources told CBS News that ever since Pete Wilson was booed at his party's convention a few of years ago, candidates have been wary of speaking to the divided and feisty meeting.

Quote of the Day: "We remember lives lost. We remember the heroic deeds. We remember the compassion, the decency of our fellow citizens on that terrible day." - President Bush after a 9/11 memorial service today in Washington. (Reuters)