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McCain's Money Mess

A Commentary By Robert Novak

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Big-time Republican contributors are complaining that prospective presidential nominee John McCain is poorly organized for the campaign and off to a bad start in raising money.

McCain begins well behind Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 money derby, and longtime Republican givers say there is no coherent plan for catching up and getting ahead.

The bright spot for McCain in the opinion of the GOP money men is the presence in his campaign of New York investment banker Lew Eisenberg, an experienced Republican fund-raiser. Eisenberg, a pro-choice social liberal who has often contributed to Democrats, was attacked by conservatives when he came on board with McCain in 2007. When McCain clinched the nomination, Eisenberg was sent to the Republican National Committee as victory finance chairman.

UNGUIDED BILL

Bill Clinton's campaigning in Pennsylvania just before Tuesday's primary antagonized Democrats who did not necessarily support Sen. Hillary Clinton against Sen. Barack Obama.

"He is an unguided missile who occasionally hits his wife accidentally," said former campaign consultant Bob Shrum, who has not endorsed anybody for president this year. Shrum's comments came after Clinton had accused the Obama campaign of "playing the race card," and the next day denied saying that (and added a profanity).

Although the former president may be out of control, the Clinton campaign has not put him on the bench. He continues to campaign for his wife in small towns, where he remains popular.

MCCAIN FOR GUNS

Sen. John McCain, continuing to mend his right-wing fences, will do something next month that George W. Bush never has done during seven and a half years as president: attend a National Rifle Association event.

McCain plans to be in Louisville, Ky., on May 16 for the NRA's "Celebration of American Values." Also on hand will be two of McCain's defeated rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.

The NRA gave McCain a mediocre C-plus rating in 2004, but since then his pro-gun voting record as a senator has been 100 percent. While some activists in the gun-ownership movement are still suspicious of McCain, his voting is vastly better than that of his two Democratic opponents, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. Each is graded F by the NRA.

NON-MCCAIN LINE

Sen. John Ensign the Senate Republican campaign chairman who faces the loss of more seats to the Democrats this year, is putting out the word that it is all right for GOP Senate candidates to publicly disagree with presidential nominee John McCain.

McCain currently opposes mainline Republican policy on numerous issues, including global warming, stem cell research, immigration and energy (including drilling in Alaska).

A footnote: National Republican operatives are coming to the aid of Sen. Norm Coleman, an endangered incumbent Republican in Minnesota. They are attacking his Democratic opponent, comedian Al Franken, who paid a $25,000 fine this month for failing to comply with New York disability insurance regulations for employees of his corporation.

MILLION DOLLAR SEAT

Stunned by results of Tuesday's special congressional election in Mississippi, Republican strategists are saying it will require spending at least $1 million to save the House seat for the GOP.

The Democratic candidate, County Clerk Travis Childers, fell only 700 votes shy of winning the strongly conservative northern Mississippi district outright without a runoff. Massive financial help from Washington is expected by Republican strategists to be necessary to save the seat for Southaven Mayor Greg Davis against Childers in the May 13 runoff. The seat, in a district that George W. Bush carried for president in 2004 with 62 percent of the vote, became vacant when Republican Roger Wicker was appointed to the Senate.

Childers, a social conservative, is better known through the district than Davis. The Democrat's strong showing Tuesday also reflected the nationwide Republican malaise, which extends even to the Deep South.

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