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Washington Wrap

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

Thursday's Headlines

* Poll Watch: Race Tightens in Iowa and New Hampshire

* Carol Moseley Braun to Drop Out and Endorse Dean:

* Everyone's Getting Nasty

* While Democrats Squabble, Bush Goes South:

* Yes, There Are Senate Campaigns in 2004

Poll Watch: A Tie In Iowa; Clark Rises in New Hampshire: Just one week after polls showed him trailing Howard Dean by 10 points and Dick Gephardt by 8 points in Iowa, today's Reuters/MSNBC/Zogby Poll (conducted Jan. 12 through Jan. 14, margin of error 4.5%) shows John Kerry leading the field by a tick, up to 22 percent with Dean and Gephardt at 21. John Edwards is in fourth place at 17 percent. With the margin of error, pollster John Zogby calls the race "a four-way statistical dead heat." Zogby says that "Dean is NOT in free fall" [emphasis in the original] but asks, "Could John Kerry be the best closer since Baseball Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley?" As Kerry takes to Iowa's skies in a helicopter today, stayed tuned for more news of his poll numbers taking flight.

  • Reuters/MSNBC/Zogby 1/12-1/14 (502 interviews)
    Kerry 22 %
    Dean 21
    Gephardt 21
    Edwards 17
    Undecided 11

    And over in New Hampshire, Dean's numbers continue to slip. American Research Group's newest tracking poll (conducted Jan. 12 through Jan. 14, margin of error 4%) shows Howard Dean's margin shrinking to just five points. Although pollster Dick Bennett tells CBS News that the "numbers are beginning to even out" after a very bad Monday for Dean, his rivals have climbed to within 4 points: Wesley Clark is now at 24% and Kerry at 15%. Bennett notes that Dean's "strongest supporters have not wavered while soft supporters have left" and that "Clark has not jumped in front of Dean because Clark, Kerry, and Edwards have split the vote that has moved away from Dean." If Dean begins to lose some of his strong support, the race could change dramatically.

  • American Research Group 1/12-1/14 (600 interviews)
    Dean 29%
    Clark 24
    Kerry 15
    Lieberman 7
    Undecided 15

    Eight Is Enough -- Moseley Braun to Back Dean: With just four days to go until the Iowa caucuses, Carol Moseley Braun plans to end her bid for president and throw her support behind Howard Dean in Iowa, Dean sources tell CBS News. Throughout the campaign, Braun has struggled to raise money and she's barely registered on the political Richter scale. But her standing as the first African American woman elected to the Senate and her consistently strong performances in debates has made it hard for people to completely dismiss her candidacy.

    It was during the "Brown and Black" debate on Sunday that Moseley Braun came to Dean's defense after his heated exchange with Rev. Al Sharpton. "And to Rev. Sharpton, the fact of the matter is, you can always blow up a racial debate and make people mad at each other, but I think it's time for us to talk about what are you going to do to bring people together?" she said. And she also went after John Edwards for calling Dean a hypocrite.

    According to Joe Trippi, it was her performance on Sunday that got the wheels rolling, reports the New York Times. Dean went to thank her after the debate and she requested a meeting to talk about possibly joining his campaign. The two met on Monday and the rest is history. Unlike most of her contemporaries, Moseley Braun rarely attacked other candidates on the stump and she and Dean developed a respectful relationship. That's in part because some of the their staffers have worked for both candidates, including Andi Pringle, who once served as Moseley Braun's campaign manager and now serves as Dean's deputy campaign manager.

    Everyone Hates Everyone (Except John Edwards, Of Course): As Howard Dean's status as frontrunner for the Democratic nomination goes from "undisputed" to "embattled" – and the prospect of a non-Dean winner in Iowa and New Hampshire becomes more realistic - the infighting among the candidates has gotten nastier.

    On Wednesday, Gephardt went after Dean's jugular in "one of his fiercest attacks," The New York Times reports. In a speech in which he called Dean "untrustworthy," Gephardt said that Democrats must "be clear about where we stand and be truthful with the American people," the Washington Post reports.

    The Des Moines Register says that Gephardt "let loose a string of criticisms of Dean. He cited the former Vermont governor's changes in position on trade and guns, statements on terrorism and foreign policy, and unflattering comments he made four years ago about the caucuses.

    "'It's become nearly impossible to know what Howard Dean really believes,'" Gephardt told a crowd of about 150 at a school in Nevada, Iowa. "'To me, there is no room for the cynical politics of manufactured anger and false conviction. I believe in standing for something.'"

    Gephardt plans to release an ad in Iowa echoing his negative comments about Dean, the National Journal's Wake-Up Call reports. The attack spot comes on the heels of a Gephardt ad in New Hampshire criticizing several of his rivals by name, including Dean, for supporting NAFTA.

    Dean, characteristically, responded strongly, the Register reports, calling Gephardt "part of the old problem" and attributed the attacks to Dean's narrow lead over the Missouri congressman, the Register reports.

    In another example of the growing negativism and personal attacks, not to mention concern about Wesley Clark quickly closing the gap in New Hampshire, Dean called Clark a "closet Republican" on Wednesday, the AP reports.

    The attack on Dean could be signs of what The Washington Post's Dan Balz's calls "obvious signs of nervousness" within the Dean campaign.

    Southern Strategy: President Bush is campaigning in the South today as he visits Louisiana and Georgia, states he won easily in 2000. The AP reports that Mr. Bush is headlining a fund-raiser at the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans and an evening reception at an Atlanta Hotel.

    In Atlanta, the president is to receive an introduction from Sen. Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat who has announced his support for Mr. Bush's re-election. Following the event, Mr. Bush will visit the tomb of Martin Luther King Jr. and lay a wreath in honor of the late civil rights leader's birthday. The president will then visit the Union Bethel A.M.E. Church in New Orleans to advocate more federal spending on social programs to religious groups.

    The trips are focused on two important constituencies: religious conservatives, who are the bulk of his support base, and black voters. Louisiana and Georgia combine for 24 of the necessary 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. In 2000, Mr. Bush won Georgian 54-43 over Al Gore and won Louisiana 53-45.

    Is She In or Is She Out?: On the Senate side, Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla., is sending mixed signals as to whether or not she will run. The Orlando Sentinel reports on "a growing feeling" among rivals that Harris "is not running" for Senate. However, the Lakeland Ledger reports that top House and Senate Republicans expect Harris to run for the open Senate seat in Florida being vacated by Bob Graham.

    Harris was in Washington on Wednesday making final rounds with political leaders before revealing her decision to the public. Harris plans to announce her decision this week as to whether to run in a wide-open primary. Harris could make an announcement as early as today.

    Meanwhile, in other 2004 Senate news, The AP reports former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley who fought to remove the Confederate flag from South Carolina's statehouse dome, announced Wednesday he is running for the state's open seat. Beasley faces an already crowded GOP field in the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Fritz Hollings. Beasley was a one-term governor losing his reelection race to Democrat Jim Hodges in 1998.

    Other Republicans seeking the nomination include former state Attorney General Charlie Condon, U.S. Rep. Jim DeMint, Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride and Charleston real estate developer Thomas Ravenel. The Democrats running are state Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum and Marcus Belk.

    In California, The Los Angeles Times reports Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will back former Secretary of State Bill Jones for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, repaying an ally with a prized endorsement that would strike a major blow to rival GOP candidates. An adviser to the governor told the Times that Schwarzenegger and Jones plan to announce the endorsement Friday in Los Angeles.

    As candidates in the Senate primary struggle to raise money, Schwarzenegger's endorsement of Jones could make it harder for them to win donors' confidence. The other candidates are former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin, former Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian and former Los Altos Hills Mayor Toni Casey.

    The AP reports the state Assembly's five-member Republican women's caucus Wednesday endorsed Marin. Last week, Jones was endorsed by the state's two previous Republican governors, Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian.

    Quote of the Day: "She taught me how to say. 'Please, don't shoot me.'" – John Kerry, campaigning on Wednesday in Iowa with Van Pham, the woman who taught him to speak Vietnamese before he was shipped out for the war. (CBS News Reporter Steve Chaggaris.)

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