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Hillary's Spending

A Commentary By Robert D. Novak

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Agents for Sen. Hillary Clinton, trying desperately to keep alive her presidential campaign, are privately telling Democrats that she is so "tight" with a dollar that she would not continue her contest against Sen. Barack Obama if she did not have a chance to win.

That was a reference to Clinton pulling $11 million out of her family's newfound personal fortune to maintain her candidacy. Saying that she would not waste money on a futile effort, her supporters imply she will still find a path to the presidential nomination.

With not enough primary elections left for Clinton to close the delegate gap between her and Obama, her strategists have to rely on the arguments they make to super-delegates. But they are having trouble selling their claim that Clinton would not be spending her own money if she did not harbor some secret tricks.

MCCAIN'S EVANGELICALS

An invitation for Sen. John McCain to meet with evangelical leader James Dobson at his Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., so far has been rebuffed by the McCain campaign.

Dobson has indicated he cannot support McCain for president. His opposition reflects continued resistance to the prospective presidential nominee among Christian conservatives. They take issue with McCain's current positions on stem cell research, immigration and global warming, as well as his past sponsorship of campaign finance reform.

Many of Dobson's followers are looking beyond 2008 to seek a new leader of the conservative movement for the 2012 election.

NO THANKS, CHENEY

Key Republicans in Mississippi, stunned by the loss Tuesday of a supposedly safe congressional seat, grumble that Vice President Dick Cheney's campaign visit to the district probably hurt more than it helped.

Their complaint is that the vice presidential visit was a "distraction," which diminished the effort to save the election. These critics put the visit by former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in the same category. National Republicans spent millions of dollars on the race in an unsuccessful attempt to tie the conservative Democratic candidate to Barack Obama.

It is generally agreed that the Democratic winner, county official Travis Childers, was a much better candidate than the Republican loser, Greg Davis, mayor of a Memphis suburb. But any Republican likely would have been able to beat any Democrat in the north Mississippi district if the tide were not running strongly against the GOP.

APPEASING THE AGGIES

Any real chance to sustain a presidential veto of the farm bill vanished because of what senior House Republicans heard from President George W. Bush when they were summoned May 9 to the White House for a pep talk.

Bush informed the assembled Republicans that he was about to veto the final version of the farm bill for excessive spending. But he went on to suggest that Republicans from agricultural districts, hard-pressed in a tough election year for the GOP, would be free to vote their own interests. This was seen as caving in to the "aggies."

The outcome of Wednesday's vote was a foregone conclusion. Republicans supported the measure, 100 to 91, as the bill passed by veto-proof margin of 318 to 106.

RON PAUL'S TROOPS

There is no sign so far that the resources of Rep. Ron Paul's Republican presidential campaign will be made available to former GOP Rep. Bob Barr as the Libertarian Party candidate, but McCain strategists fear that will be the case.

Barr is running on much the same issues as Paul, including opposition to the military intervention in Iraq. Paul, the Libertarian candidate in 1988, has never ended his campaign for the Republican nomination and has continued to pile up impressive primary totals against Sen. John McCain. Paul has indicated he never will endorse McCain.

Without help from Paul's impressive national network, Barr would be unlikely to perform better than the usual Libertarian presidential nominees.

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