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Washington Wrap

Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, and Kelly Doherty of The CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital.



What Does Andy Know and How Does He Know It?: On Wednesday night, White House Chief of Staff Andy Card made a little news. On the first live Webcast of "Ask the White House" on the White House Web site, Card said that he thinks Saddam Hussein is dead.

"He's not likely to be in Quincy, Braintree or my hometown of Holbrook," Card told Casey from Massachusetts. "I think he's dead."

Card fielded 17 queries, including a facetious question about whether the White House was planning to invade France. "Virginia wine is fine with me," he replied.

Card stayed very much on message, saying that what's next for the White House is to focus on "jobs, job, jobs and a continued focus on winning the war against terrorism."

Next up is EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman. Maybe someone will ask her how that headhunter in New York is doing finding her a new job.

Pelosi One, Frist Zero: That's the score of two reviews of the new leaders first 100 days in today's papers. The Washington Post ran a front-page story on new Senate Republican leader Bill Frist headlined "Frist Off to a Rocky Start: Senate Leader's Tax Cut Flap, Missteps Have Caused Problems for Bush and the GOP." Meanwhile, the Associated Press ran a glowing portrait of Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi: "A Good Start by all Accounts."

Frist had enjoyed some very positive press up to now but the Post story focuses on his failure to get the key votes to pass President Bush's Artic drilling, medical malpractice and tax cut proposals. Frist's allies told that Post that these setbacks have to do with his unfamiliarity in running the Senate and the difficulty in passing legislation with only a two vote majority. He is particularly unsure of how to push the more liberal Republican members to vote for the president's conservative agenda.

A joke making the rounds is that Frist, who was perceived as being too close to Mr. Bush to be an effective Senate leader, may be "doing too good a job proving his independence from the White House."

Pelosi, on the other hand, has had some unexpected success uniting Democrats in the House specifically in their opposition to the Bush tax cut, the AP reports. Conservative Democrats who voted against her and were concerned she was too liberal now say she's moved toward the center. "I've been very, very pleasantly surprised by the way she has listened to all elements of the party, " said Rep Dennis Moore, D-Kan. Others said she won over some newer members by giving less-senior members good committee assignments and by showing that she's looking out for the entire caucus.

A Crowded Field: The Louisiana gubernatorial primary, slated for October 4, could present some problems for Republicans. Of the 12 candidates on the ballot, seven are from the GOP. And in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, many fear that an overcrowded GOP candidate pool will result in a runoff between two Democrats.

State Republican chairman Pat Brister responded to these fears by telling the Baton Rouge Advocate he was "not overly concerned" about the prospect of a November 15 runoff with no Republican representation on the ballot. He and many other Republicans believe the field will narrow as soon as it is clear who is capable of winning the race. As always, money is anticipated to be a crucial factor.

On the Republican front, Public Service Commissioner Jay Blossman and state Sen. Ken Hollis have personally contributed to their campaigns and are the only Republicans with television commercials so far Hollis told the Advocate, "There are too many Republicans in the race. We want to get out our story and get it out early."

Former White House health-care advisor Bobby Jindal has also stepped up his funding efforts in a press conference with "big" donors this past week. According to the Alexandria Town Talk, the donors were "rounded up" by current Gov. Mike Foster, who publicly announced his support for Jindal at the same event.

Republican officials, however, are not anticipated to formally endorse one candidate. White House political adviser Karl Rove was in New Orleans last week but steered clear of saying anything public.

The two leading Democrats Attorney General Richard Ieyoub and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco have outraised the Republicans so far. Ieyoub had $2.2 million in the bank at the end of the first filing period.

Candidates, Search Your Engines: The Internet has become a popular campaign tool for candidates, and it may now serve as an early indicator of the winner of the Democratic presidential primaries. According to the Lycos 50 Daily Report, their tracking of 1999 computer searches on candidates was an accurate predictor of the candidates' popularity. Early in the race it indicated Al Gore was more popular than Bill Bradley and George W. Bush was more popular than John McCain.

Looking at searches done on Democratic candidates in the last few weeks, there are already some clear frontrunners. Sen. John Kerry was ranked first; Gov. Howard Dean, second; and Sen. John Edwards was third. Kerry and Dean's placement in the top three is probably the result of their anti-war messages; for the past two weeks anti-war terms have been more popular than pro-war terms. Edwards, however, has been labeled a "special case." It appears he is often confused with television psychic John Edward. The resemblance ends with their name but the psychic may be helping Edwards (not to be confused with Edward) with his name recognition.

Despite their increased popularity, no candidate, or any American political figure for that matter, made it into this week's "Lycos 50 Elite." Candidates are hard-pressed to compete with categories like third place Tattoos - (Skin Is In); sixth place KaZaA - (#1 File-Swapper), and ninth place WWE – (Pro Wrasslin').

Maybe if Sen. Edwards became the Tattooed Psychic in the WWE, his poll numbers would increase.

Quote of the Day: "A lot of those movers and shakers, I trained. I don't need hotshots in Washington to tell me how to run a presidential campaign." -- former Sen. Gary Hart, speaking to students in New Hampshire. (PoliticsNH.com)

Washington Wrap, like most of the political candidates, is taking off for the holiday weekend. Don't forget to watch Connecticut senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. We'll be back on Monday.

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