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Washington Wrap

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.

Dean Rolls On: The good news – and even the bad news – just keeps getting better for Howard Dean. A new WMUR/WCBV poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire shows Dean is a full 29 points ahead of his nearest rival in the Granite State. Conducted from December 10 through 15, before and after the capture of Saddam Hussein, Dean receives 46 percent, John Kerry takes 17 percent, Wesley Clark polls at 10 percent, 7 percent are for Joe Lieberman, John Edwards nets 4 percent, and Dick Gephardt rounds out the pack at 3 percent. While the 29-point Dean lead is not his largest (some spreads have topped 30 points), it does seem to indicate that N.H. voters haven't been particularly swayed by recent events.

If the good news is staying good, it appears the bad news isn't completely destructive either. Over the weekend, a group called Americans for Jobs, Health Care and Progressive Values (AJHCPV) began running a Saul Shorr-produced ad that features a picture of Osama bin Laden and says that "Howard Dean just cannot compete with George Bush on foreign policy." The Dean campaign, rather than sit back, has turned the attack into a tool of its own. The campaign's Web site put up a "bat" asking supporters to contribute to "show that we're going to keep fighting." Started Saturday, the bat "broke" its $400,000 goal early Tuesday morning and has raised $552,214 as of Wednesday.

Controversy over AJHCPV's refusal to disclose its financial backers has caused some of the group's union supporters -- the Machinists, the Iron Workers and the Laborers, all of whom have endorsed Dick Gephardt -- to go public. Rick Sloan, a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists, who gave $50,000 to AJHCPV, told the AP, "The ads are despicable and we ought to ask for the refund." Though the Gephardt campaign has denied any involvement in the ads, "they've done more to damage Dick Gephardt than anything any of his opponents could have done or dreamed of doing," Sloan concludes.

And at least one vice-presidential hopeful is paying close attention to Dean's momentum. Former presidential candidate Bob Graham whose daughter, Gwen Graham Logan has joined the Dean campaign, told a Florida audience on Tuesday that Dean's foreign policy platform was "visionary." Graham, who announced last month he would not seek re-election to the Senate, has been not done anything to tamp down the idea that he'd like to be on Democratic ticket.

Madonna And Albanian-Americans Line Up For Clark Howard Dean's got Bonnie Raitt. John Edwards has Charles Barkley. Dick Gephardt has Tony Bennett and Dennis Kucinich has Willie Nelson. Now, Wesley Clark has Madonna.

On the star endorsement front, the Washington Post reports that news of Madonna's endorsement was welcomed by the Clark campaign. Madonna says she plans to hold a fund-raising concert for Clark at her L.A. manse.

In addition to that jaw-dropping political news that could have national if not international implications, Clark got some good news on the Feb. 3 poll front in Arizona, South Carolina and Oklahoma. One caveat: the polling firm, Survey USA, uses computers to make its calls, a method some political observers say leads to inaccurate results. (For example, the computers, as opposed to human callers, cannot really tell if the "voter" being polled is actually a seven-year-old who answered the phone while mom is in the shower, etc.) The Clark campaign doesn't share those concerns and is delighted about the polls showing Clark tied with Dean in Arizona and South Carolina and ten points ahead of him in Oklahoma.

Clark also has gotten a ton of publicity for his testimony in Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial at The Hague. CBS News' Clark campaign reporter Bonney Kapp reports on Clark's homecoming at Boston's Logan Airport, where he was greeted by Albanian-American supporters who are grateful for Clark's leadership in the Kosovo war.

A mix of supporters and media came to Boston's Logan airport Tuesday night to greet General Wesley Clark following his trip to The Hague. "We're with you," Clark heard as he came out of customs. "Good job," they told him. Albanian-Americans handed him flowers and held signs reading, "Welcome home Wes Clark. A job well done." One Bosnian woman said she was there to "support the general and offer our support for what he's done over there."

A travel weary Clark told the crowd what little information he could about his testimony at former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial. "I got a real sense of closure from this for the international community, especially for the people of the Balkans who were victimized by his terrible aggression, by his adroit manipulation of diplomacy and war that cost 150,000 or more people their lives and it made 2 million people or more homeless over a decade, and it was a terrible tragedy for the region."

While the general didn't spend a lot of time pressing flesh with the crowd of enthusiastic supporters, he did spend a significant period of time in his car just outside the airport, filling out paperwork since British Airways lost one of his two suitcases. Don't expect a lack of clean clothes to slow his campaign efforts in New Hampshire, however. "I'm rushing back up there as quick as I can get there," Clark said with a grin. He will be campaigning in the Granite State through the end of the week.

Which Side Are You On? President Bush said for the first time on Tuesday that he could support a constitutional amendment opposing gay marriage. "If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment which would honor marriage between a man and a woman, codify that." His remarks drew criticism from conservatives and Democratic rivals, such as Dick Gephardt alike. Bush has always maintained that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but conservatives are disappointed that he won't also shut the door on state recognized civil unions.

In an interview on ABC News, Mr. Bush appeared to try to take both sides of the issue. On the one hand saying, "The position of this administration is that whatever legal arrangements people want to make, they're allowed to make, so long as it's embraced by the state or at the state level." And on the other hand reiterating his position from 2000 that the issue should be decided by the states, "except and unless judicial rulings undermine the sanctity of marriage."

Dick Gephardt responded to Mr. Bush's possible support for an amendment banning gay marriage said it would be part of an "alliance with bigotry," according to the Washington Post. Of the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, only Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich support gay marriage. The remaining seven candidates support civil unions.

House Out, Maybe Senate: Former Rep. John Thune, R-S.D., announced Tuesday he will not run for his old seat that's being vacated by Rep. Bill Janklow, though he gave no indication whether he'll take on Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., next November.

"Due to the extraordinary situation we find the state in today, with the upcoming special election, I feel it is important to advise the Central Committee that I will not be seeking the party's nomination for the June (1st) special election," Thune wrote to the state GOP, according to Roll Call.

Janklow announced his Jan. 20 resignation after being convicted of second-degree manslaughter for his involvement in a car crash that killed motorcyclist Randy Scott.

A Republican source tells Roll Call that Thune opting out of the House race shouldn't be a leading indicator of his interest in a statewide race, though Thune has said he'll announce whether he'll run for the Senate again early next year. Thune lost to Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., in 2002 by 524 votes.

With Thune out of the House race, four Republicans have expressed interest in succeeding Janklow: State Rep. Dick Brown, State Sen. Larry Diedrich, Rapid City councilman Jeff Partridge and former Thune aide Larry Russell. Other GOP names floating around include two who lost to Janklow in the 2002 GOP primary: former Sen. Larry Pressler, and former state House Speaker Roger Hunt.

Democrat Stephanie Herseth, who lost to Janklow 54-46 in 2000, has been running for Janklow's seat for over a month and Republicans admit she's leading all of their potential candidates in the polls.

Meantime, while Thune makes up his mind about the Senate, Daschle is forging ahead with his re-election bid as he's expected to end the year with $4 million on hand, reports Roll Call.

Quote of the Day: "No one ever mentioned anything about his color." -- Essie Mae Washington-Williams, telling CBS News' Dan Rather she was "surprised" to learn at 16 that Strom Thurmond was white. The piece runs tonight on CBS News' 60 Minutes II.

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