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Washington Wrap

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



Bush-Cheney '04 In The Mail And On The Net: The Bush re-election campaign, which has a new group of Rangers set to raise $200,000 each, is also casting a wider net for small donors.

The AP reports that in a letter mailed on May 16, President Bush wrote that since he'd be required to "focus primarily on the nation's business for most of the next year," he'd have to "depend on friends and supporters like you to get my campaign organized and operating around the country."

The letter was also e-mailed to a group of potential donors. In addition, the campaign has been asking for donations on its Web site. In the first week, they raised $25,252 from 118 donors, an average $214 per person, Jim Dyke, RNC spokesman told the AP.

Biden His Time: Could Delaware Democrat Joe Biden – an unsuccessful 1988 presidential candidate and current ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – still be considering a run for the White House?

Biden, in his sixth term in the Senate, did not rule out the possibility when asked last week if he'd run in 2004. He dismissed the notion that time could be running out to mount a legitimate bid.

"If I do this, I'm not going to do this on anybody's terms but my own this time," the Wilmington News-Journal quotes Biden as saying. "If it's too late, it's too late. So be it."

Biden, a vocal critic of Bush administration foreign policy, told the News-Journal the recent debate over Pentagon plans to develop a low-yield nuclear weapon was an example of why he wants to remain in the Senate – for now. In doing so, he managed to sneak in a dig at the other congressional Democrats busy running for president.

"Here we are talking about low-yield nuclear weapons and John Edwards, John Kerry, Bob Graham and Dick Gephardt are all somewhere else. They're not in the debate. I am not ready to do that," Biden said.

Biden went a bit further in his non-ruling out, arguing that Bill Clinton did not announce until October of 1991. And, again, a dig at his potential competitors: "I think this has all gotten off to too quick a start. And, so far, none of these candidates have really caught on. I could be dead-wrong, but I think there's still plenty of time."

Another potential late bloomer, former NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark, is in Toronto today making a speech on world safety after the war in Iraq sponsored by the United Jewish Appeal. Clark's admirers, including a web site called the Daily Kos, say they think the chances of his getting in are about 50-50. A grassroots Internet movement, www.draftwesleyclark.com, has been trying to drum up support, especially in New Hampshire. So far the retired general and CNN analyst – whose second book, "Winning Modern Wars: Iraq, Terrorism and the American Empire" will be out in September- says he's not ready to make the leap.

Leave It To The Girls: What do Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., have in common? They are both looking for the go-ahead from their wives to enter the political fray in 2004.

Schwarzenegger's political ambitions are on hold until the summer release of his new movie, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines." But he says he will consider entering the California governor race after talking with his family. According to the AP, the Republican actor is looking for support from his wife, Kennedy cousin and NBC correspondent Maria Shriver, a Democrat. "She has to give the green light and feel comfortable with it because she moved away from Washington to get away from all of that kind of stuff," Schwarzenegger told TV Guide for its May 31 issue.

Schwarzenegger is not alone in the family debate. Sen. Hollings, 81, says he's trying to convince his wife to let him run after he said last week that he would retire if the Democrats could find a strong candidate to replace him. "I'd like to beat the hell out of the Republicans," Hollings told Gannet News Service. "But my wife — I've got some personal considerations. After seven races, come on. She doesn't want to go for an eighth time right this minute. We're arguing about it. We'll see what happens."

They Call This Recess? The halls of Congress are extremely quiet with members gone for a week's vacation. But if their leaders have their way, the members will be making some noise at home, talking to voters about major issues.

CQ Today reports the Senate Republican Conference distributed a 28-page memo asking GOP senators to pump-up approaching legislation including a Medicare bill and an energy bill.

"Please use every opportunity possible to reiterate your support for the Congress to act on Medicare," wrote conference chairman Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. "Our other theme for the recess is the need for the Senate to pass a comprehensive balanced energy plan that creates jobs and protects the environment."

The memo also suggests the senators should talk about Democratic filibusters of two controversial judicial nominees, saying "The Democrats obstruction is a calculated effort to control the Senate agenda, obstruct the democratic process and nullify the president's power to shape the judiciary."

Meantime, Democrats say they'll continue to talk about economic issues during the break, especially the negative aspects of the recently passed tax cut. "We'll be talking about the cut specifically, how unfair it was and how unlikely it is that it will do what they claim it will do," said Barry Piatt, a spokesman for Democratic Policy Committee chairman Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.

On the House side, Republicans passed out a three-ring binder with talking points on Medicare, veterans, pensions and education, according to CQ Today. House Democrats are following their Senate counterparts by focusing on tax cuts and the economy.

Perhaps the Democrats concerted focus on the economy is due in part to a May 22 memo issued by consultants James Carville, Stan Greenberg and Bob Shrum which contends Democrats have an edge on economic issues and people are receptive to accusations that President Bush favors "big corporations" and the wealthy.

2004 Presidential Candidates' Week Ahead:

Tues. 5/27 – Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., visits San Mateo County Hospital (Calif.) to discuss his plan to reduce healthcare costs.

Tues. 5/27 – Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, will visit Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno and Sunnyvale, Calif. On Wednesday, visits San Jose, Cupertino, Palo Alto, Santa Rose, and San Rafael.

Wed. 5/28 – Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., speaks at a San Francisco Bar
Association luncheon.

Wed. 5/28-30 – Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., delivers a technology policy speech in Seattle and then travels to San Francisco.

Wed. 5/28 – Kerry campaigns in Iowa.

Wed. 5/28-5/30 – Howard Dean campaigns in Manchester, Derry and Londonderry, N.H. on Wednesday; Manchester, Concord, Warner on Thursday; Jaffrey, Peterborough, Keene, Claremont on Friday.

Thurs. 5/29 – Kucinich continues to campaign in California with stops in San Rafael, Corta Medera, San Francisco, and Berkeley.

Thurs. 5/29 – Lieberman travels to Los Angeles to speak to ANGLE, a gay and lesbian political group.

Thurs. 5/29 – President Bush hosts his 35th Yale reunion at the White House.

Thurs. 5/29 – Kerry campaigns in Sioux City, Iowa.

Fri. 5/30 – Edwards speaks at a labor meeting in Everett, Wash.

Fri. 5/30 – Kucinich visits Manchester, N.H.

Fri. 5/30 – President Bush prepares for the G-8 summit in Krakow, Poland.

Fri. 5/30 – Lieberman visits Arizona.

Sat. 5/30 – President Bush spends the day in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Sat. 5/31 – Kucinich travels to Lake Placid, New York and Madison, Wisconsin.

Sat. 5/31 – Dean, Kerry, Kucinich, and Rev. Al Sharpton speak at Democratic Rural Conference in Lake Placid. Lieberman will send a taped message.

Sat. 5/31 – Edwards campaigns in Iowa with stops in Sioux City and Council Bluffs.

Sat. 5/31 – Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., speaks at Missouri Democratic
Party's Truman Day breakfast in St. Louis.

Sun. 6/1 – Edwards speaks at Holy Redeemer Church of God and Christ in Milwaukee, Wis.

Sun. 6/1 – Dean speaks to California Teachers Convention.

Sun. 6/1 – President Bush visits France.

Sun. 6/1 – Kucinich travels to Des Moines and Chicago.

Quote of the Day: "Once you pull the trigger, for the most part, your importance goes away pretty damn quick …Those phone calls you were getting every three days? You can't get anyone to return your phone call." – Iowa Democratic activist Frank Chiodo on what he predicts will happen once he decides which presidential candidate to support in the caucuses. (The New York Times)

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