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GOP Is Ready to Roll Out the Klieg Lights for Craig

By Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray
Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho is a tough guy to run out of town.

Not that his Republican colleagues aren't trying. Worried that the disgraced lawmaker intends to remain in the Senate indefinitely, they are threatening to notch up the public humiliation by seeking an open ethics hearing on the restroom scandal that enveloped Craig last month.

The Senate hearing would examine the original charges in Craig's case, including the allegation of "interference with privacy," for peeping into the bathroom stall occupied by an undercover police officer. One senior Republican aide imagined "witnesses, documents, all in front of the klieg lights." The committee also could look for "a pattern of conduct" -- which means combing court records in other locales to discover whether Craig had prior arrests that haven't come to light.

The call for a public hearing is not unprecedented. In 1995, the Senate narrowly rejected holding an open forum to examine sexual misconduct allegations against Bob Packwood (R-Ore.). The Democrat who called for the open Packwood hearing? Barbara Boxer (Calif.), the current chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.

While his lawyer was in Minnesota last week trying to persuade a judge to throw out the senator's guilty plea, Craig was a regular presence on the Senate floor, backslapping colleagues during votes and, at one point, conducting a private conversation with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has urged Craig in no uncertain terms to leave the Senate. Craig's wife, Suzanne, also made an appearance at a Senate spouses' lunch.

"I do not think it is healthy for the U.S. Senate to be put through a public type of hearing on this type of an ethics complaint, but that is ultimately going to be his decision, because we are very limited on what we can do," said Sen. John Ensign (Nev.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

A New Journey

Remember Matt Dowd, one of the members of George W. Bush's inner political circle in 2000 and 2004?

Dowd broke publicly with his former boss in the spring, expressing disappointment with the president and his policies. Since that split, Dowd has pursued a very different path.

That has led Dowd to India, where he has begun a self-described pilgrimage to "walk in the paths of the major spiritual movements." Dowd is documenting his trip through India, Nepal, Turkey, Israel and Italy at LiveGentle.com -- a blog dedicated to the belief, as Dowd writes, that "human beings deep in their hearts and souls want to be noticed, they want to be recognized, they want to feel they belong somewhere and matter, they want a touch of kindness or gentleness as they exist in their lifes."

Dowd's journey began earlier this month. Reached in India on Friday, Dowd said he was unsure whether he would ever reenter the world of partisan politics.

"Right now I want to spend my time and energies doing the 'One' campaign on global poverty and health," Dowd wrote. (He is the chief strategist for the One Vote '08 initiative.) "And the rest of my time I want to do my part in [a] small way to encourage each of us [to treat] each other as human beings."

Name Those Bundlers

Ever since President Bush instituted his bundler program -- affixing bigwigs able to deliver hundreds of thousand of dollars in checks to his campaign with titles such as "Ranger" and "Pioneer" -- he has been relentlessly (and unapologetically) copied by Republican candidates hoping to succeed him in the White House.

This time around, however, the ante has been upped. While the highest rank in the Bush fundraising hierarchy was $300,000 -- the "Super Rangers" -- former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani already has two Texans committed to raising $1 million or more for his 2008 presidential campaign.

Tom Hicks Sr., who owns baseball's Texas Rangers, and Jim Lee, the newly appointed finance chairman for Hizzoner, are both "Team Captains," which means they have collected or will collect seven figures' worth of donations.

Lee will be charged with converting past Bush Rangers into Giuliani Team Captains, Most Valuable Players ($200,000 raised) and All Stars ($100,000).

Through the first six months of 2007, Giuliani raised $33 million, second only to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. The third fundraising quarter ends Sept. 30 at midnight.

PLAYERS

Martha McKenna is taking over what might be one of the most attractive jobs in politics right now. McKenna, a longtime operative at Emily's List, is the new political director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. She succeeds Guy Cecil, who left the organization to serve as national political and field director for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (N.Y.) presidential campaign. McKenna inherits from Cecil a political landscape that Democrats could only have dreamed about a few years ago. Twenty-two Republican incumbents are up for reelection, compared with 12 for Democrats; three GOP incumbents -- Sens. Wayne Allard (Colo.), John W. Warner (Va.) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.) -- have announced their plans to retire, and Democrats have recruited top-tier candidates in New Hampshire, Maine and Oregon, where Republican incumbents face tough reelection fights. McKenna knows her way around tough Senate races, as she was involved in the 2006 open-seat victory of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.).

20 days: Look to Louisiana for a bit of good news for Republicans badly in need of it. Rep. Bobby Jindal (R) continues to run far ahead of his Democratic (and independent) rivals in the governor's race. The only question is whether Jindal can top 50 percent on Oct. 20 -- thereby avoiding an unpredictable runoff on Nov. 17. A Jindal win would be sweet revenge for his narrow loss four years ago to Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D).

36 days: It's the last day to file for Congress in Illinois. The incredibly early deadline is the result of the state moving its primary to Feb. 5, 2008, to help native son Barack Obama in his presidential bid. With at least five House seats -- including three Republican-held open seats -- likely to host competitive races in 2008, Illinois voters are in for a very long campaign season.

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