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Washington Wrap

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

Dean's Union Support: Just days after Howard Dean received his first union endorsement, it looks like the nation's largest union is poised to back him as well.

The 63-member executive council of the 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union plans to meet on November 6 to decide about endorsing a presidential candidate.

"It's Howard Dean or no one," an SEIU official told CBS News. "He's the only one with momentum, the only one who there's any passion for on the board."

However, the union official cautioned that the board hasn't voted yet and other candidates are still lobbying to block the endorsement. The SEIU is the largest union in the AFL-CIO – and in New Hampshire – and an endorsement would "validate him on the health care" issue, the official said. In addition, the union has a large number of minority members - 42 percent are non-white - and it has the most immigrants of any union. Following Dean's endorsement by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., the union could provide a big boost for Dean among blacks and Latinos.

The union official said it shouldn't come as a surprise that there's so much enthusiasm for Dean at the SEIU. The process has been open, an SEIU staffer told CBS News. "Andy's not cute, he's let the candidates know where he stands," referring to SEIU President Andy Stern.

The SEIU news comes on the heels of Dean's first union endorsement Monday from the 140,000-member International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

The SEIU endorsement would be a major blow to Dick Gephardt, who has received more union endorsements – 20 – than any of the other Democratic candidates. But Gephardt has yet to receive the backing of the AFL-CIO outright, mainly because larger unions such as the SEIU and AFSCME have held off due to questions about how successful Gephardt's candidacy can be.

The New Republic has more on Dean and the SEIU endorsement.

Busy Bush: For someone who claims he's not focused on politics, President Bush sure is busy politicking in next few days.

On Thursday, Mr. Bush heads to Columbus, Ohio, for a $2,000-a-head Bush-Cheney funder at lunchtime hosted by Gov. Bob Taft, followed by an official (read: taxpayers pick up some of the tab) speech on energy issues at an aluminum company. On his way to Crawford for the weekend, Mr. Bush squeezes in another fundraising event in San Antonio before heading to Prairie Chapel for the night.

The president will get some rest (and we assume clear some brush) on Friday, when he has no public events scheduled.

On Saturday, the non-political president heads to Mississippi and Kentucky to rally the GOP troops for both states' Nov. 4 gubernatorial elections. In Mississippi, he campaigns for former RNC Chairman Haley Barbour in Desoto and Gulfport. In Kentucky, he campaigns with Rep. Ernie Fletcher in Paducah and London. (Barbour got a visit Wednesday from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who told a firefighter-filled crowd of about 1,500 in Pascagoula that Barbour stands strong for law enforcement and that is a chief factor in keeping the state strong, the Biloxi Sun-Herald reports.)

Lest anyone think President Bush is the only person in the White House not focusing on politics, his wife, Laura, and Vice President Dick Cheney both headlined Bush-Cheney funders on Wednesday. The first lady was in Tyler, Texas, while Cheney made the quick trip up 17th Street/Connecticut Avenue to the Mayflower Hotel. Cheney managed to raise $475,000 from 400 donors in about ten minutes, but inexplicably did not even get a chuckle from the audience (at, we gently remind you, a Bush-Cheney fundraiser) when he said in his inimitable deadpan, "The campaign season will come in due course."

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush picked-up the backing of Sen. Zell Miller, the Georgia "Democrat" who has steadfastly backed the president and the Republicans on minor issues like taxes, the war, education and judicial nominations. The AP reports that Miller, the former governor of Georgia, said he'll "help (Bush) in any way I can."

Miller, subject of the party-switch rumor mill on a nearly weekly basis, added, "This does not mean I am going to become a Republican. It simply means that in the year 2004, this Democrat will vote for George Bush."

Democrats surely breathed a sigh of relief that so loyal a soldier has decided to stick with the party.

C Company: To a cheering crowd of about 400 supporters, the Clark campaign launched C Company Wednesday night. C Company, whose members give $100 apiece, follows a Democratic trend to encourage donations from political newcomers, like young professionals and older voters who have not given in the past.

To chants of "Clark, Clark, Clark," the retired genreal told the audience that his wife, Gert, had described running for president as "volunteering for a heart attack." To much laughter and applause, Clark then explained his reasoning, "I never thought I'd do this, but I never thought our country would be here." And with that explanation, he launched into his coalescing stump speech: clear criticism of President Bush and a more vague description of his own policies.

Although billed as a "young professionals" event, the room was actually more full of the young at heart than the truly young; participants at the C Company launch ranged from six to 76. And although C Company is a low-dollar group, the Clark campaign included larger donors – up to $1,000 – at the event.

Gillian Jennings, a Georgetown University sophomore and member of Hoyas for Clark told CBS News, "Dean is the strongest on campus right now. But once people realize that Dean won't be able to hold up against Bush, I think they'll come to Clark." And even those unable to vote found Clark the most electable. As 8th-grader Alex Leigh of St. Albans said, "Clark is moderate – he will make it easier for Democrats to win against Bush."

Afterwards, Clark spoke with CBS News and emphasized his criticism of the president. Of White House claims that the "Mission Accomplished" banner was not the president's idea, Clark said, "I think it's typical of this administration trying to duck responsibility. The next thing we'll hear is that the sailors told the president to get out there in a flight suit and prance around the flight deck."

If Giuliani Says So, Then... Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is using his star power once again to help his successor, Michael Bloomberg, end party primaries in the city. The recent alliance should be of no surprise: Giuliani called for the change himself when he was mayor, but he never brought the issue to the voters, reports the New York Times.

Mayor Bloomberg has spent at least $2 million of his own money on the campaign and part of that will be spent on a mailing that features Giuliani urging voters to support the ballot measure. Featuring a photograph of Giuliani standing in front of an American flag, the mailing says the proposal "promises to free voters and elected officials alike from the grips of excessively partisan politics."

People opposing the measure aren't going down without a fight. Union leaders have stepped in to denounce the measure and editorials in the New York Times, the New York Post and Newsday have also urged voters to say no.

The most creative ploy, however, probably came from the left-leaning Working Families Party, which announced the creation of a Web site to fight the plan, www.themayorslatestbadidea.com, with the help of a party member dressed in a top hat and tails who called himself "Mayor Bloombucks."

One of the main areas of contention is the belief among Democrats that the proposal is an attempt to undermine their power in the city and that it favors the wealthy. Bloomberg responded to the claims, pointing out that Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, a Democrat, was elected in a nonpartisan election and that he believes the plan would open up the electoral process and take power away from special interests and party bosses.

Howard Dean also jumped into the fray, but in doing do so may have inadvertently flip-flopped, reports the New York Daily News. In an e-mail sent to New York supporters, Dean said, "such a change will make it easier for wealthy individuals with no real prior connection to their communities to buy their way into City Hall," alluding to the Bloomberg's 2001 victory, in which he spent a record $70 million.

But in an earlier survey conducted by the Committee for a Unified Independent Party, Dean said he would "support nonpartisan elections" similar to those held in California, where all local races are nonpartisan.

The Democratic Party says it plans to send out its own mailings and several unions are also spending money trying to oppose the plan. However, opponents predict the mayor will outspend them all.

Bloomberg's mailings are expected to hit mailboxes by Friday or Saturday. The measure will appear on the ballot next Tuesday.

Quote of the Day: "Edwards brings fresh, exciting proposals and a dynamism that we need." --New Hampshire state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, who has been wooed by all the candidates, finally throwing his support to John Edwards. (Edwards campaign conference call)