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



Do They Know This In South Carolina? Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the only Democratic presidential candidate to speak at the Democratic Leadership Council's lunch a few weeks ago in South Carolina, has been Big D dissed by DLC national leaders Al From and Bruce Reed.

According to the Washington Post, a memo read to 50 centrist Democrats meeting in Washington on Wednesday to plot strategy, tarred Dean as an elitist liberal from of the "McGovern-Mondale wing" of the party, "a wing that lost 49 states in two elections."

"Make my day," Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi told CBS News. He said the story unleashed a barrage of mail from Dean supporters who are furious that these "Washington insiders" would brand their candidate a liberal elitist.

Dean has been trying to show that he has positions across the spectrum of the Democratic Party; in particular, that he is a fiscal conservative and in favor of states, not the federal government, making their own laws on gun control. According to the Seattle Times, Dean got roars from a Seattle crowed Wednesday for attacking Democrats in Washington as "Bush lite."

DLC Chair Al From, who has been waging the center-left fight inside the Democratic Party ever since he worked in the Muskie campaign in 1972, also took a shot at Dick Gephardt, saying his health care proposal is too costly. "Each primary season unleashes the pander virus," he and Reed wrote.

Gephardt was one of the DLC's founders in the mid-80's, but he has strayed over the years. Two of the current charter members, Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bob Graham of Florida, attended a dinner for participants in the strategy session at the home of Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, the Washington Post reported.

In an interview with the AP, DLC poster boy Bill Clinton, who also attended Wednesday's strategy session, said many who think that Dean is "very liberal" should look at his accomplishments in Vermont. The former president said Dean's health care proposals, which have a lower price tag, are consistent with "New Democrat" positions.

He also said Democrats should stop fighting among themselves - advice not likely to be heeded any time soon.

Texas Fussin' And Fightin' - The Musical: As the Texas Democrats continue their exile on Oklahoma – preventing a vote in Austin on a Republican-friendly congressional redistricting plan – more and more Democrats from around the country are voicing their support. In fact, Roll Call reports one U.S. House Democrat quite literally voiced her support in the form of a parody based on the theme to "The Beverly Hillbillies."

"Come and listen to my story 'bout some hacked off Ds … Got sick and tired of Craddick treatin' them like a disease," Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., sang about Texas Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick.

"And then one day the Rs were shootin' through some bills … So they loaded up the bus and they headed for the hills … Ardmore, that is," referring to the Oklahoma town where the Texas Dems are currently staying.
Roll Call caught wind of Slaughter's recording, which was available to U.S. House Democrats, before it was quickly shelved. "It is funny… But it is a serious situation, so we decided to throw it away," Tom Eisenhauer, spokesman for Rep. Martin Frost, D-Tex., told the newspaper.

Aides for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who Democrats say is behind the whole redistricting plan, aren't as amused. "This isn't spring break and this isn't Dems Gone Wild," DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella said. "Stop raiding the mini-bar, turn off the pay-per-view and get back to work."

Meantime, a group of Texas citizens has hit the airwaves with a TV ad supporting the 51 Democrats involved in the walkout.

"For those who have the courage to stand on principle and put the needs of people before politics, we call them heroes," says the ad.

A group called Texas Counts, headed by a Lone Star State Internet consultant, produced the ad.

Who Wants To Elect A Millionaire?: Illinois Republicans finally have found some warm bodies willing to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Peter Fitzgerald. And all three are very rich warm bodies to boot.

The Illinois GOP has hard a hard time recruiting a high-caliber candidate to run in 2004. This week alone, two Republicans who'd been wooed by the national GOP – former Illinois Attorney General and 2002 gubernatorial nominee Jim Ryan and state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka – opted out. Last week, popular former Gov. Jim Edgar also declined to run, as did Rep. Jerry Weller.

But now it looks like at least three candidates – all wealthy businessmen – will take a shot at the nomination.

Former Goldman Sachs partner Jack Ryan told the Illinois Leader on Wednesday that he's "officially a candidate" for Fitzgerald's seat. (Yes, that's another unrelated Republican in Illinois named Ryan, beyond Jim and former Gov. George. And no, it's not Jack "will you take a company check?" Ryan from the movies, either – although we're sure he's heard the joke many, many times.) Ryan, who's been a teacher at an inner-city Catholic high school since retiring from Goldman, was heavily recruited in 2002 by the White House to run against Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin. In the end, Ryan declined to run, and Durbin was re-elected by a large margin over state Sen. Jim Durkin.

Jim Oberweis, a dairy entrepreneur who also was recruited to run in 2002, filed exploratory papers on Tuesday. He's pledged to spend up to $1 million of his own money on the race if he decides to run, Roll Call reports.

Finally, another wealthy businessman, Andy McKenna, filed papers on Wednesday. McKenna plans to formally kick off his campaign in a few weeks, Roll Call reports.

Roll Call also reports that 2002 GOP nominee Durkin and attorney John Cox both are considering running, as are former Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood and state Sens. Dan Cronin, Patrick O'Malley and Steve Rauschenberger.

On the Democratic side, the DSCC announced that it plans to set up a "ground communications operation" in Illinois for the Senate race. Former Durbin aide Stacey Zolt will be communications director. Now all the Democrats need is a candidate.

Moran Has A Fight: Katherine K. Hanley announced Wednesday that she will run for Virginia's 8th Congressional District seat, making her the first Democrat to challenge Rep. James P. Morgan in the primary since 1990. Hanley told the Washington Post she has had "enormously positive feedback" in the heavily Democratic district where Moran has recently faced criticism for suggesting that Jews were pushing the country into war in Iraq.

Moran's remarks during a peace vigil angered fellow Democrats who pressured him to resign his regional-whip post in March. Now, Hanley is the first official candidate to challenge Moran's seven-term leadership in the district that includes Alexandria, Arlington, and portions of Fairfax. Hanley has spent the past eight years as the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She told the Post that her local experience with projects such as a rail line to Tyson's Corner and Dulles International Airport make her an ideal candidate.

Instead of holding a campaign kickoff, Hanley announced her decision to run with a few phone calls. She said, "That will come later. I don't want to detract from the [local and state] races that are so important in Northern Virginia right now. Moran did not comment on Hanley's announcement, but his spokesman Dan Drummond called it "premature" since the Democratic primary is still 13 months away.

Two other Democrats, Washington lawyer Jeremy Bash and State Sen. Leslie L. Byrne, are considering a run against Moran in 2004. Byrne, a former congresswoman, formed an exploratory committee and said she is "moving forward" on an official announcement. She told the Post, "This isn't about Kate or me. It's about having a change in the 8th District."

Some political analysts consider Moran to be vulnerable in the upcoming election because of his comments about Jews and the war in Iraq as well as some questionable campaign donations and erratic behavior. In one highly publicized incident Moran grabbed an eight-year-old boy who he mistakenly thought was stealing his car last year. But Moran told the Gannett News Service that any challengers in the 2004 congressional race should "think twice before getting into the ring with me."

Quote of the Day: "If Kerry wins, it's still a Bones presidency" – author Alexandra Robbins on the possibility of a 2004 match-up between George W. Bush and John Kerry, both of whom are members of Skull and Bones, the elite Yale secret society. (The Boston Herald)

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