Tags: Insider | Report: | McCain-Giuliani | Clash | Possible

Insider Report: McCain-Giuliani Clash Possible

Monday, 12 December 2005 12:00 AM

Sen. John McCain is preparing for a 2008 showdown with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who so far who leads him in the presidential race according to most polls.

While the two men remain personally friendly, sharing dinner recently at a Manhattan bistro, Newsday reports that McCain's team is monitoring Giuliani's every move - including keeping track of how much face time the former mayor gets on TV.

Meanwhile, McCain insiders aren't shy about trashing the former mayor's presidential prospects.

"In my humble opinion, Rudy wouldn't get out of the gate," longtime McCain strategist John Dennehy tells the paper. Dennehy helped engineer the Arizona senator's 2000 primary win in New Hampshire.

Some openly suggest that the man dubbed "America's mayor" for his stellar performance after the 9/11 attacks may eventually end up working for McCain.

"I think Rudy would make an attractive secretary of state or secretary of defense in a McCain administration," said former McCain aide Marshall Wittmann.

McCainiacs have good reason to be concerned. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed Giuliani would win the coming primary battle, beating McCain, 34 percent to 31 percent.

Another problem for the Arizona maverick: 20 percent of Republicans said they wouldn't vote for McCain under any circumstances. Only 8 percent said the same thing about Giuliani.

Meanwhile, survey after survey shows that while both men could beat likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Giuliani's margin of victory is almost always greater.

Team McCain intends to counter the former mayor's advantage by painting their man as the rightful heir to president Bush's conservative mantle, and by focusing on Giuliani's liberal positions on abortion, gay rights and gun control.

"The difficulty for Rudy, and it's huge, is that he's pro-choice, and Republican primary voters will never pick anybody who doesn't oppose abortion - period," Wittmann told Newsday.

Team McCain seems to realize that it doesn't have time to waste when it comes to getting the jump on Giuliani.

The senator's political organization is moving full speed ahead into campaign mode and has "steadily expanded [into] a national team of hundreds of political professionals and volunteers," Newsday says.

McCain's people are keeping such a close eye on their main rival that they're even monitoring "how many minutes of network airtime Giuliani gets compared with their man."

They're also on the alert for any indication that the former mayor is beginning his own campaign, with McCain aides routinely checking their contacts around the country for signs of Giuliani activity.

Meanwhile, even as "America's Mayor" routinely outpolls McCain nationally, Newsday says his organization remains so small it "could fit comfortably into a minivan."

And while Giuliani himself says he won't make a decision till 2007, some of his aides say they're not sure he even wants to enter the race.

Referring to the scrutiny that forced his former police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, to withdraw his nomination for Homeland Security Czar, one Giuliani insider tells Newsday: "Does he really want to go through that, too? My gut tells me he's not going to run."

While California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lost political face with the defeat of his ballot initiatives in the recent special election, his wife Maria Shriver's silence on the issues has boosted her credibility.

And her strength could be an important asset for Schwarzenegger when he runs for re-election next year.

Shriver never spoke about the four initiatives proposed by her husband, "paving the way for her to play an influential role in Schwarzenegger's effort to create and communicate a more bipartisan approach to governing as he runs for re-election," according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Shriver's silence on the initiatives will make any future campaigns she supports more credible, Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University Sacramento, told the Union-Tribune.

"People believe she doesn't speak unless she believes what she's saying. If there's an agenda and it meets voters' needs, she'll be a great asset in selling that."

Schwarzenegger's popularity had tumbled even before the special election defeat. In February, 56 percent of voters said they were likely to re-elect him, according to a Field Poll. In October, only 36 percent felt that way.

Significantly, in October only 18 percent of Democrats said they were inclined to vote for him next year. That could make Shriver especially important in the re-election campaign, because her silence on Schwarzenegger's initiatives - which focused on conservative causes - has strengthened her credibility as a Democrat.

While Shriver did not speak out publicly against holding the special election, she did so in private, Schwarzenegger revealed at a press conference following the election.

"I should have listened to my wife, who said to me, 'Don't do this,'" he told reporters.

Shriver also played a role in Schwarzenegger's most recent controversial move - hiring a top Democrat, Susan Kennedy, as his new chief of staff.

"This is a sign that Maria said, 'You've got to put someone in charge,'" political analyst Tony Quinn told the Union-Tribune.

"This is a sign that she's going to play a bigger role in the administration."

The lobbyist named as a "co-conspirator" of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham ran what amounted to a hotel service for congressional friends, maintaining a "hospitality suite" with several bedrooms in Washington.

That's one revelation of an in-depth investigation of lobbyist/defense contractor Brent Wilkes by the Copley News Service and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Cunningham resigned last week after pleading guilty to tax evasion and conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud. He was charged with accepting cash and favors in return for his influence in landing Pentagon contracts.

"Wilkes' story shows how gifts, favors and campaign contributions can be used to gain lucrative business from the government," the Union-Tribune reports.

Since 1996, Wilkes has received at least $95 million in government contracts for firms based at his headquarters in Poway, Calif.

The license plate on his black Hummer left no doubt as to where his money was coming from: MIPR ME, a reference to Military Interdepartmental Purchase Requests, which authorize funds in the Pentagon.

Wilkes doled out plenty of favors to the politicians who helped him, investigators have found. He took Cunningham on several trips on his corporate jet and evidently picked up the tab for the congressman's food, lodging and transportation on trips to resorts.

Wilkes also provided Cunningham with the use of a powerboat he moored behind the congressman's yacht in Washington.

More importantly, as far as federal prosecutors are concerned, were his cash gifts to Cunningham, which amounted to more than $630,000.

Other disclosures from the Union-Tribune's investigation include:

When Hillary Clinton was recently heckled with shouts of "Troops out now" in her hometown of Chicago, it must have struck former White House insider Joseph Califano as ironic.

Califano, who was a top aide to Lyndon Johnson and later served as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Jimmy Carter, writes in his new book "Inside: A Public and Private Life" about his first meeting with Hillary.

It came in 1970 at a U.S. Senate hearing on the plight of migrant workers. Califano was representing Coca-Cola chairman Paul Austin, whose Minute Maid division was under fire in Florida.

"As [we] entered the Caucus Room on that steamy Washington morning, it was so jammed with spectators that many were standing and sitting on the floor," Califano writes.

"Anti-establishment fervor ... was palpable in the hearing room.

"About halfway down the aisle, a young woman with dark hair and thick-rimmed glasses abruptly came in front of me and said, 'You sold out, you mother******, you sold out!' I kept walking, pretending to ignore her."

That foul-mouthed woman was Hillary.

As NewsMax reported, Hillary was heckled by a crowd of high school and college-age students on December 3, and security guards pounced on at least two protesters and dragged them away.

Anti-Schwarzenegger forces in California have launched a campaign to convince actor-director Mel Gibson to run for governor. The California Republican Assembly, a grass roots group based in Monrovia, has put up a Web site, melgibsonforgovernor.com, that features a Gibson biography, a petition and links enabling visitors to buy Gibson's movies.

"He can articulate a vision a little bit better," said Mike Spence, president of the CRA.

"In his last movie ("The Passion of the Christ"), he showed how he can reach out to people."

Spence said he didn't know if Gibson would be willing to run for the state's highest office. But he touted the star's conservative credentials and ability to manage money.

Last year Gibson campaigned against Proposition 71, a measure approved by voters that allowed the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to create a state institute for stem cell research.

Gibson, who lives in California, maintained that the measure was too expensive for the cash-strapped state, according to the Pasadena Star News.

He also said it would lead to the destruction of human embryos.

Spence said Gibson showed his ability to manage money by bankrolling the $25 million production costs of "The Passion of the Christ," which grossed as much as $600 million worldwide.

Spence believes Gov. Schwarzenegger has alienated much of the Republican Party's right by choosing Susan Kennedy as his chief of staff. Kennedy, a former aide to Gov. Gray Davis, is a Democrat, a lesbian and was the chief executive for an abortion-rights group . In addition, Schwarzenegger recently proposed a $50 billion public-works bond, which Spence believes is not fiscally conservative.

"We're trying to save the party," he said. "Our party is a party of ideas. If you abandon all those ideas, then the only thing Republican about you is the R by your name on the ballot."  

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Sen. John McCain is preparing for a 2008 showdown with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who so far who leads him in the presidential race according to most polls. While the two men remain personally friendly, sharing dinner recently at a Manhattan bistro,...
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Monday, 12 December 2005 12:00 AM
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