Washington Wrap

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AP
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.

Then Again... The race for Florida's open senate seat, held since 1986 by Democrat Bob Graham, is already crowded, but the Tampa Tribune reports HUD Secretary Mel Martinez is considering jumping in. Martinez told reporters back in June that he wasn't interested, but Republican sources tell CBS News that he's reconsidering and may make an announcement soon.

And today in Florida, CBS News' Mark Knoller, who is accompanying President Bush on his Florida fund-raisign trip, reports that Mr. Bush spent several minutes lavishing praise on Martinez as an American success story.

If he decides to run, Martinez, who emigrated from Cuba at the age of 15, may be the GOP's best chance of capturing the seat. Because Martinez is Hispanic, Republicans believe he not only can win Cuban-American votes, but also cut into Democratic support from other Hispanic-Americans.

Should Martinez join the race, he won't be alone. There are already a number of Republicans vying for the nomination and U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris has said she's mulling a run, too. But according to the Tampa Tribune, some Republicans, including White House operatives, worry that a Harris candidacy might bring back memories of her controversial role in the 2000 presidential election, something they'd like to downplay in 2004.

Bottom line, though, is that Republicans want someone who can win. High-level national Republicans tried repeatedly earlier this year to coax Martinez into the race and were rebuffed, because he wanted to remain in the Bush Cabinet until 2006, and then consider a run for governor, according to the Tribune.

But that was then and this is now. Sources say Martinez has been talking to prominent Republicans since earlier in the week about entering the Senate race, and some say he's gone as far as to say it's a go. One can only assume that the Republicans aren't the only ones interested in his final decision.

$100 Million Man: President Bush will zoom past the $100 million mark at a pair of Bush-Cheney '04 fund-raisers in Florida on Thursday, putting his re-election campaign well on its way to achieving, if not surpassing, its stated goal of $170 million.

While the Bush campaign refuses to confirm the $100 million figure, CBS News' Mark Knoller has taken a look at the administration's recent fundraising activities.

Knoller reports that at the end of the third quarter on Sept. 30, the Bush campaign reported having raised $83.9 million. Since then, President Bush has attended 10 events, Vice President Cheney another eight, first lady Laura Bush seven and Lynne Cheney three. Their combined haul of $15.7 million left Bush-Cheney with at least $99.5 million as of Wednesday.

Bush-Cheney spokesman Scott Stanzel tells CBS News that Thursday's events, one in Buena Vista and one in Ft. Myers, will add $2.6 million to the campaign's coffers. Scarier still for Democrats, the $15.7 million since Sept. 30 included only money raised at events attended by the first and second couples. If direct mail and Internet contributions are taken into account … well, let's just say Bush-Cheney '04 won't be having any problem making payroll this month.

You can be sure there's no hand-wringing going on in the Bush household about whether to self-finance.

Clark To Skip N.H. Debate: Wesley Clark will miss the Dec. 9 DNC-sanctioned presidential debate in New Hampshire because of a long-scheduled New York City fund-raiser, the Manchester Union Leader reports. A Clark spokesman tells CBS News that the campaign has a $1 million event in Manhattan that night that Clark cannot miss.

Communications director Matt Bennett said the decision to skip the debate is not an indication of any dialing back in New Hampshire. "We are playing hard in New Hampshire," Bennett says, adding that the debate-skip was "absolutely, unequivocally not" a signal of a change in strategy, despite a report in Thursday's Boston Globe that indicated the Clark campaign hasn't caught fire in New Hampshire.

But New Hampshire voters fearing they won't see much of Clark's mug can rest easy: He will be taking part in the Oct. 18 AARP-sponsored debate in Manchester. And, more importantly, he plans to unveil his first TV ads on Monday.

The biographical spot will run in New Hampshire initially and South Carolina after that, although the Palmetto State release date has not been determined. The campaign won't release the size of the buy, but press secretary Kim Spell described it as "significant." Spell called the spot, produced by Joe Slade White, a "fresh take on the traditional bio spot."

Lest anyone think Clark is focused on just New Hampshire and South Carolina, he's also reportedly working hard to get organized in Florida. The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel says Clark has former Miami-Dade commissioner Charles Dusseau as his state chairman and plans to send several more staffers to the state soon.

And while Montana might not have very many delegates, the sputtering Clark campaign surely will welcome the endorsement of Sen. Max Baucus on Capitol Hill on Friday. Roll Call reports that Clark, who has 11 House member endorsements thus far, also has the backing of Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana, although he has not yet endorsed him formally. In addition, Clark is expected to get the endorsement of Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York in coming days. Two savvy House members, Charlie Rangel and Rahm Emanuel, have been Clark's leading advocates on the Hill.

Louisiana Governor's Race, Where's W? The Louisiana governor's race between Democratic Lieutenant Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Republican Bobby Jindal is going down to the wire. A Southeastern Louisiana poll released Monday showed Blanco with 41.4 percent to Jindal's 40.1. On Nov. 5, Jindal led by two points in the University Of New Orleans Survey Research Center poll, but trailed Blanco by 1 point, 38 percent to her 39 percent in a Loyola University poll.

The race has also attracted attention because Blanco would be the state's first female governor and Jindal, an Indian-American, would be "the first nonwhite ever popularly chosen governor of Louisiana – or any Deep South state, for that matter," according to the AP. Jindal, a 32-year old former HHS assistant Secretary has received help from Louisiana Republicans on Capitol Hill. Roll Call reports that Reps. Billy Tauzin, Joel McCrery and Richard Baker raised $170,000 for him at a Nov. 5 D.C. fundraiser and that Baker, for whom Jindal worked as an intern, threw in $10,000-$15,000 from his own campaign funds.

Hill Democrats have been less active in fundraising, but one of them, Sen. John Breaux, has made a TV spot for Blanco and has a lot at stake in this election. If Blanco wins many believe Breaux would resign, since Blanco could appoint a Democrat to replace him. Roll Call reports that Breaux is dismissing that speculation and Blanco has said that she'd ask Breaux to chair a health summit in the state.

One prominent Washington politician is missing from this race. While Jindal's success would make the Republicans four for four in the gubernatorial sweepstakes, and President Bush made last-minute appearances for Republicans in Mississippi and Kentucky, in Louisiana, it's less clear cut that the president would push Jindal over the top. In fact, the Jindal campaign has been running a spot featuring the Democratic mayor of New Orleans, and Time Magazine reported that Bush advisers fear that the president might "galvanize hard-core Democrats in the only Southern state that hasn't sent a Republican to the Senate since Reconstruction."

Quote of the Day: "I mean look, it's a crap shoot. Where's the economy going to be? Where's Iraq going to be? What is perceived in a factual way that he is Dukakis revisited or he's Mondale revisited, I think is not right. It's inaccurate. And I think you've got to give the guy the chance to prove it." - Gerald McEntee, president of AFSCME, on his reasoning for endorsing Howard Dean. (AP)