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Attorney General Edwards?

An Inside Report by Robert Novak

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Illinois Democrats close to Sen. Barack Obama are quietly passing the word that John Edwards will be named attorney general in an Obama administration.

Installation at the Justice Department of multimillionaire trial lawyer Edwards would please not only the union leaders supporting him for president but organized labor in general. The unions relish the prospect of an unequivocal labor partisan as the nation's top legal officer.

In public debates, Obama and Edwards often seem to bond together in alliance against front-running Sen. Hillary Clinton. While running a poor third, Edwards could collect a substantial bag of delegates under the Democratic Party's proportional representation. Edwards then could try to turn his delegates over to Obama in the still unlikely event of a deadlocked Democratic National Convention.

Helping McCain

Private overnight polls after Fred Thompson's withdrawal from the presidential race Tuesday showed a bump for Sen. John McCain in Florida's Republican primary Jan. 29.

Thompson did not endorse McCain, even though the former Senate colleagues are on close terms with each other. Nevertheless, McCain appears to have picked up much of Thompson's Florida voter support and now leads Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani in the last primary before Mega Tuesday Feb. 5.

The withdrawal of Tennessean Thompson leaves Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, as the last remaining Southerner in the Florida primary. However, Huckabee sacrificed hope of picking up Thompson's voters when he announced his cash-starved campaign was abandoning Florida and concentrating on Feb. 5, especially the Georgia primary. (See Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and latest Florida poll).

No Earmark Talk

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell completely shut down any negative talk about earmarks during the closed-door Senate GOP retreat Wednesday at the Library of Congress, rejecting demands by anti-earmark reformers.

Sen. Ted Stevens, the senior Republican senator and former Appropriations Committee chairman who is under federal criminal investigation, delivered a pro-earmark lecture. He was seconded by two other appropriators, Robert Bennett and Kit Bond.

A footnote: The House Republican retreat at the Greenbrier resort, starting Thursday, scheduled a full-scale debate on earmarks. There was little chance, however, for the GOP congressmen to pass a quarantine on Republican members requesting earmarks this year.

Bush's Stimulus Switch

President Bush has quietly abandoned efforts to quickly pass a bill intended to help homeowners by strengthening the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and is concentrating on rapid passage of a stimulus package to put money in the hands of consumers.

Bush three weeks ago was nagging Congress to quickly reconcile differences between separate FHA bills passed by the Senate and the House. But he is now going along with a bipartisan effort to pass a "first" stimulus bill and worry about a "second" measure later.

A footnote: The FHA legislation has been stalled partly because Sen. Christopher Dodd was missing in action last year as Senate Banking Committee chairman while he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination. Dodd has abandoned that candidacy and returned to Washington, but there still has been no Banking Committee activity.

McCain in N.Y.

Sen. John McCain interrupted his crucial Florida primary campaigning Tuesday by flying to New York City for a $1,000- to $2,300-a-ticket fund-raising reception at the St. Regis Hotel that raised an estimated $600,000 to $1 million.

The event was chaired by longtime Republican finance powerhouse Lewis M. Eisenberg. The co-chairmen constituted an all-star New York establishment cast including Henry Kravis, James Forbes, Don Marron and Bob Mosbacher.

A footnote: McCain also launched his campaign for the Feb. 5 New York primary, challenging Rudy Giuliani in his home state. McCain's state chairman is Manhattan lawyer Ed Cox, Richard Nixon's son-in-law. Honorary co-chairmen are former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Commerce Pete Peterson and former Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead.


See Other Political Commentary

See Other Recent Columns by Robert Novak

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