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A McCain Mistake

A Commentary By Robert Novak

Sen. John McCain had just begun his speech from Kenner, La., on the year's last primary election night when distraught Republicans began e-mailing each other this message: Is it possible at this late hour for our presidential candidate to learn to read a teleprompter?

McCain's strategists, concerned that he has been out of the spotlight for months while Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton battled for the Democratic nomination, long ago planned to get some national attention Tuesday night. But McCain looked uncomfortable addressing a few hundred supporters at the dreary Pontchartrain Center in the New Orleans suburb.

In contrast, Obama's managers booked the huge Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., site of the Republican National Convention three months from now. The Democratic candidate showed off his oratorical skills before a big partisan audience.


If Barack Obama is elected president, mutual friends say the best course for Hillary Clinton might be nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court rather than staying in the Senate.

Clinton is also talked about as suitable for secretary of state in an Obama administration. The consensus among her friends is that she would not be content forging a lifetime career in the Senate, as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy did after he lost the 1980 presidential nomination.

A footnote: The last confirmed Supreme Court nominee without prior judicial experience was Lewis Powell, a prestigious attorney from Richmond, Va., named by President Richard M. Nixon in 1971. No high court selection has had so modest a legal background as Clinton since President John F. Kennedy named football star Byron (Whizzer) White in 1962.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reported to be privately talking about Rep. Rahm Emanuel, currently House Democratic Caucus chairman, as the next senator from Illinois if Sen. Barack Obama wins the presidential election.

Emanuel told this column he is not interested in the Senate and has not talked to Pelosi about it. He also suggested that Pelosi might be saying she would regret losing him from her leadership team. However, the source quoting the speaker indicated she was enthusiastic about Emanuel's elevation to the Senate.

A footnote: The same source said Pelosi indicated House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer would be her eventual successor as speaker, even though she opposed his election to the second-ranking leadership position. Emanuel has been widely mentioned as the speaker of the next decade.


Retiring Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, a prominent Republican moderate publicly critical of his party's right wing, has joined conservatives boosting newly elected 36-year-old Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to be John McCain's vice presidential running mate.

Meeting with reporters, Davis said Jindal as the son of immigrants from India would add an ethnic element to the Republican ticket without turning off any voters. He noted that Jindal, who served briefly in Congress before his election as governor last year, has about as much federal experience as Barack Obama. "I don't know whether that qualifies him to serve as VP or not," Davis commented.

Jindal-for-vice president chatter got a boost when he spent a recent weekend as a guest at McCain's Arizona cabin.


Sens. John Warner and Pete Domenici, two senior Republicans not seeking re-election this year, made certain that Democrats narrowly passed their budget, 48 to 45, because they exercised old-fashioned senatorial courtesy.

The two most senior Democratic senators, Robert Byrd and Edward M. Kennedy, were not present for the vote because of illness. Warner and Domenici gave them "live pairs" -- not voting in order to negate the absence of the Democrats. If Sen. John McCain (the only absent Republican) had been there and Warner and Domenici had voted, the budget would have failed on a 48 to 48 tie.

A footnote: Sen. Hillary Clinton was absent, but Sen. Barack Obama was presented and voted for the budget.


See Other Political Commentaries

See Other Commentaries by Robert D. Novak

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

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