In the May 15 Politics column, a passage paraphrasing a memo written for the Democratic Leadership Council was mistakenly placed in quotation marks. "We are increasingly confident that President Bush can be beaten next year," the officials wrote. The next phrase -- "but [former Vermont Gov. Howard] Dean is not the man to do it" -- was not a direct quote. (Published 5/16/03)

In case there was any doubt, the New Democrats don't like former Vermont governor Howard Dean and they definitely don't want him to win their party's 2004 presidential nomination.

More than 50 centrist Democrats, including Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, met here yesterday to plot strategy for the "New Democrat" movement. To help get the ball rolling they read a memo by Al From and Bruce Reed, the chairman and president of the Democratic Leadership Council.

The memo dismissed Dean as an elitist liberal from the "McGovern-Mondale wing" of the party -- "the wing that lost 49 states in two elections, and transformed Democrats from a strong national party into a much weaker regional one."

"It is a shame that the DLC is trying to divide the party along these lines," said Dean spokesman Joe Trippi. "Governor Dean's record as a centrist on health care and balancing the budget speaks for itself."

As founder of the DLC, From has been pushing the Democratic Party to the right for nearly 20 years. He was in tall cotton, philosophically speaking, when an early leader of the DLC, Bill Clinton, was elected president in 1992. As Clinton's domestic policy guru, Reed pushed New Democrat ideas -- such as welfare reform -- that were often unpopular with party liberals.

"We are increasingly confident that President Bush can be beaten next year, but Dean is not the man to do it," Reed and From wrote. "Most Democrats aren't elitists who think they know better than everyone else."

The memo took a milder shot at Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) for his proposal to guarantee universal health insurance coverage, which From and Reed deemed far too costly. "Every primary season unleashes the pander virus," they wrote.

Gephardt spokesman Erik Smith said the criticism is a good sign. Gephardt's plan "has been attacked from the left and from the right. We must be onto something."

Two DLCers running for president -- Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) and Bob Graham (Fla.) -- attended a dinner for participants in the strategy session last night at Warner's home in Alexandria.

Anti-Daschle Ads Goad Democrats

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission about ads being run in South Dakota by the conservative Club for Growth that attack Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) for opposing President Bush's tax cuts. The DSCC contends the ads violate a provision of the new campaign finance law restricting such "attack" ads that was upheld recently by a three-judge federal panel. The complaint also asks broadcasters to stop airing the ads. Daschle is seeking reelection next year, and he is a top target of the GOP and the White House.

The ads cite tax cuts engineered by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, note South Dakota's rising unemployment rate and call on Daschle to support the "Kennedy/Reagan/Bush tax policy that will bring jobs back to South Dakota." Earlier, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) complained it is "grossly inaccurate" to compare the Bush and Kennedy tax cut plans and called on the group to pull the ads.

Austin Caper Captures Congress

Texas Democrats and Republicans faced off yesterday morning on the U.S. House floor over redistricting, debating whether the decision by Democrats in the Texas state House to flee from Austin to Oklahoma amounted to a badge of honor or shame.

Republicans are fuming about Texas Democrats' departure, which has paralyzed the legislature and prevented the GOP from passing a redistricting plan that could cost as many as eight U.S. House Democrats their seats. "We got a lot of deserters down there, guys who are afraid to stand and fight," said Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.). "Thank God we didn't have those Democrats at the Alamo."

House Democrats here countered that the Democrats in Austin were standing up for the state's voters. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tex.) called them "soldiers of democracy."

Democrats continued the debate last night, reading editorials from state papers. This just got Republicans angrier; Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) said state Democrats "were elected to go to Austin to participate in the legislative process." Members of the minority were unbowed. "These brave 53 members said enough is enough," said Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez (D-Tex.). "Ya basta."

Staff writers Helen Dewar and Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.