Washington Wrap

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

Ad Add: The New York Times reports that in the RNC's controversial new ad – which touts President Bush's successes in the war against terrorism and implies Democrats are not as committed to that fight – digital editing was used to make the president's garbled syntax in last year's State of the Union speech more clear.

The text of the speech read, "It would take one vial, one canister, one crate, slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have known." But, the Times reports, when he actually delivered the speech, Mr. Bush stumbled between the words "one" and "vial" and pronounced vial as if it started with a "w." In the ad, the stumbles are nowhere to be heard.

Howard Dean's campaign caught the editing changes and alerted reporters to it late last week, when the ad first was unveiled.

RNC officials acknowledged that the snippet was edited "to ensure best clarity," but spokeswoman Christine Iverson said the party used only footage and audio from the speech in making the ad. Had the party gone to the White House to record Mr. Bush's voice, it could be a violation of federal campaign laws. But an RNC official told the Times it was a "cut and paste" from another part of the speech.

A spokesman for the DNC, Jim Mulhall, said, "Audio cutting and pasting is 'Bush speak' for them having doctored their own ad."

Bush-Cheney Chairman Marc Racicot, in New Hampshire to announce the campaign's state leadership team, said the RNC should not pull the spot.

Meanwhile, the Washington Times reports that President Bush approved the ad, which began airing in Iowa on Sunday.

"How much can you let go unanswered?" the Washington Times quoted an unnamed White House official as saying. "The president is going to keep on his schedule, but it's incumbent upon somebody to defend the president — and that's what the party does."

Mr. Bush hits the campaign trail Tuesday, with fund-raising stops in Las Vegas and Phoenix and an "official" event on Medicare at a senior center in each city, a bookkeeping scheme that allows the campaign to stick taxpayers with the lion's share of the trip's cost.

Mr. Bush narrowly won Nevada's four electoral votes in 2000. Since then, Nevada has picked up an additional electoral vote. Mr. Bush also narrowly won Arizona in 2000, but since then the state has elected a Democratic governor, potentially making its 10 electoral votes even more competitive. In addition, because Arizona holds its Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 3 – the first in the West – the Democratic presidential candidates have been frequent visitors.

Vice President Dick Cheney, meanwhile, was busy on Monday raising $750,000 for Bush-Cheney '04 coffers and $200,000 for Rep. Anne Northup at a $1,000-a-plate Louisville fundraiser.

Picking Winners, Iowa Style: Howard Dean got a big 'atta boy from influential Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen for his performance in the seventh DNC-sponsored debate. On Sunday, Yepsen had criticized Dean for his negative campaign tactics against Dick Gephardt, but in Tuesday's paper Yepsen declared Dean "the winner." Wesley Clark, whose campaign has been sputtering, won Mr. Yepsen's second place vote.

What won Yepsen's heart was Dean's decision not to lash back when he was pummeled by Gephardt and Kerry. By taking "the high road," Yepsen writes, Dean is going back to "the 'non-politician' style that has excited so many Democrats about his candidacy. Based on Tuesday's performance, he's back on top of this game." Remaining calmly above the fray, Yepsen concludes that Dean came out the winner.

The debate lasted for two hours and covered a variety of issues, with Medicare as a major sticking point. First Gephardt and then John Kerry (speaking via satellite during a failed Medicare filibuster) questioned Dean's commitment to the senior social program. At one point, Kerry asked Dean, "Are you going to slow the rate of growth, governor?" He repeated his question seven times for emphasis. Dean responded with slight humor, saying, "We'll I'd like to slow the rate of growth of this debate if I could." After another round of criticism, Dean said with bemusement, "I most certainly appreciate all this attention that I'm getting."

For some observers, the increasing antipathy between various Democrats, particularly between Dean and Gephardt, "may weaken both candidates," reports the New York Times' Adam Nagourney. John Edwards tried to capitalize on that sentiment during the debate itself, saying, "People are tired of listening to politicians yell at each other."

Perhaps sensing that the Medicare moment has passed, two of the senators who had cancelled campaign trips on Monday to stay in the Senate while the bill was on the floor avoided voting on final passage. Kerry and Joe Lieberman, left D.C. for New Hampshire and Arizona, respectively, before the vote Tuesday morning. Edwards stayed on Capitol Hill and voted no on the Medicare bill.

South Dakota's Holding Pattern: South Dakota Republicans are becoming extremely fidgety about who's going to run for the House and Senate in 2004. GOPers are currently waiting for a re-election decision from Rep. Bill Janklow, who will be on trial for manslaughter next week after a fatal August car accident. They're also waiting to hear from former Rep. John Thune about whether he'll run for Janklow's seat, if it is vacated, or if he'll challenge Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

There are a number of Republicans sitting on the sidelines waiting for their decisions before they figure out their own plans. And some are upset that Janklow and Thune are taking so long.

Former Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D., who said he's not interested in running against Daschle, did say there are a number of other Republicans "politely waiting" to jump into that race. Pressler told the Aberdeen News that he wants Thune to run for Senate, but added, "We can't be like a deer in a highway facing bright lights. We can't wait forever."

"He is sitting on this thing for the House or the Senate, and the Republicans in this state are getting in worse and worse shape," Pressler said.

National Republicans are urging Thune to take on Daschle after Thune's near win against Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., in 2002. But Thune, who has said he'll make a decision by the end of the year, could run for his old House seat where polls show him further ahead than he is in a Senate run against Daschle.

Meantime, The Hill reports there are six Republicans, in addition to Thune, waiting for Janklow's decision. If Thune opts out of a House run, Democrat Stephanie Herseth, who lost to Janklow in 2002, may be the beneficiary of a jampacked Republican primary.

In And Out Clooneys: The son was handed some bad news Monday while the father is embarking on a new journey.

We're talking about George Clooney and his father Nick. E! Online reports that HBO is not renewing George's political series "K Street." But dad Nick, a former Cincinnati news anchor and American Movie Classics personality, announced Monday that he's running for the U.S. House from Kentucky.

The 69-year-old Clooney will run as a Democrat to replace Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Ky., who endorsed Clooney Monday while saying he wasn't running for re-election.

Lucas, who previously said he would run for a fourth term, decided against it because he had originally promised to only serve three terms. "I determined that if there was a quality Democratic candidate, I would step aside," said Lucas.

Clooney, the brother of late singer Rosemary Clooney, said in a statement, "I will tell you what I believe to be the truth, whether you agree with me or not, whether it is politically correct or not, whether an election hinges on it or not."

A spokesman for Republican Geoff Davis, who lost a close election to Lucas in 2002, said, "We look forward to a spirited campaign."

Quote of the Day: "And I thought it was strange that Wes Clark, who just became a Democrat six weeks ago, was allowed to effectively blackball a lifelong Democrat like me from this discussion." – Sen. Joe Lieberman, complaining that Wesley Clark's objection kept him out of Monday's DNC debate in Iowa. (ConnecticutNow.com)