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Daschle’s State of the Union

In a harbinger of the aggressive attack that Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (S.D.) plans to launch on President Bush’s legislative agenda over the next two years, the Democrat is quietly planning a major economic speech that will serve as a pre-emptive strike against the president’s State of the Union address.

The Jan. 24 speech, in which Daschle will slam Bush’s economic stimulus package and lay out the principles of a Senate Democratic plan, will come just four days before the president’s big night.

Daschle advisers tell HOH that the speech at the City Club in Cleveland shows that the Senator will be leading the charge against Bush, even though he decided not to challenge the president directly through a 2004 White House campaign.

“He feels liberated now to take the bark off the tree,” said one Daschle adviser. “The Senate Democratic plan will actually provide a real stimulus now — this year. The Bush plan will only provide a stimulus in time for his reelection in 2004.”

A second Daschle adviser noted that next week’s speech comes just more than one year after the Senator delivered a major economic address in Washington. “Fast forward one year later and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost,” said the adviser. “And as Daschle said a year ago, the president’s only solution is more tax cuts.”

This adviser noted that Daschle is following up on the vow he made last week that he skipped a presidential run “to stay here and lead the fights that are important to the country.”

And if Democrats don’t get the brass ring in ’04, it’s only the nature of politics that Daschle could be a better-prepared presidential contender in ’08. In fact, on Monday he will head to another important presidential state, Michigan, to deliver a speech at an interfaith dinner honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Meanwhile, Daschle and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) have passed up the opportunity to deliver the official Democratic response immediately following the State of the Union.

Instead, Washington Gov. Gary Locke will address the nation when Bush is finished. In a joint statement, the two leaders explained that they have asked the nation’s Democratic governors to take a more active role in spreading the party’s message.

“America’s governors are the ones on the front lines in dealing with our nation’s challenges, and Governor Locke is one of our party’s most articulate voices,” said Daschle.

Andresen on the Move. While Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) has not staffed up his presidential campaign yet, his Senate chief of staff is going to have some more time on his hands as the campaign heats up.

Insiders tell HOH that William Andresen, Lieberman’s top aide, is leaving the chamber to become a lobbyist at The Dutko Group.

While Andresen will not run the presidential bid, he told HOH that the new job “gives me more flexibility to be involved in the campaign.”

Holly Jolly Christmas. In a megabucks K Street deal, veteran lobbyist Thomas Jolly has forged a strategic business relationship with Washington Council Ernst & Young, relocated his boutique government and public relations firm to the organization’s Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest offices.

Jolly and his lobbying partner, fellow Democrat Pat Rissler, bring a combined total of more than 60 years of legislative experience to the deal. Jolly will keep existing clients like insurance giants AFLAC and CNA and also work on matters of mutual interest with Washington Council as the 108th Congress proceeds.

The move comes as Washington Council beefs up its entire shop with folks from both sides of the political aisle. They just signed former White House health policy staffer Anne Phelps, a particularly hot commodity because she is a onetime aide to new Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

The firm has also added Brian Conklin, a former staffer in the White House Congressional liaison shop.

Meanwhile, Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP has just added Michael Evans, former chief counsel and deputy staff director on the Democratic side of the Senate Finance Committee. He was heavily involved in debates over the 2001 tax cut, the 2002 trade law and the Medicare prescription drug bill.

Evans previously spent eight years working on the Environment and Public Works Committee for Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

Kay Pasa. Taking a new approach to rewarding Senators who best deliver the GOP message, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) has found a new approach to getting the point across.

At each Tuesday policy luncheon, the Republican Conference vice chairwoman gives an award to the Senator whom she considers to have delivered the best floor speech of the week. The reward?

A red, plastic fire fighter’s helmet, with a front logo that reads: “Majority Message … Fireman of the Week.”

The first recipient of the helmet, which sounds suspiciously like the old fire hat that went to Major League Baseball’s best relief pitcher (the Rolaids Relief Man Award) back in the day, was Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah). The new Chief Deputy Majority Whip delivered a blistering attack on Democrats on Tuesday for holding up the GOP’s effort to move ahead with an organizing resolution that officially puts Republicans in charge of the chamber’s 20 committees.

Bennett joked that he wasn’t sure if the fake helmet was his to keep, or if it was something he had to turn in to next week’s winner, akin to the Stanley Cup that is yours to keep until hockey’s next champion is determined.

“It just may be that they can afford one a week. I think this is $1.98 at Toys ‘R’ Us,” he quipped.

If Bennett does have to turn his messenger helmet in next week, he said he will not dare carve his initials into it, as is done with some sports trophies. “It’s of such quality that I wouldn’t dare mar it,” Bennett told HOH.

Oh Donna! Donna Brazile, one of the most sought-after commodities in the talent scramble among Democratic presidential hopefuls, has decided to open her own grassroots consulting firm.

“I looked around this great city and there are so many political consulting firms but hardly anyone focusing on grassroots advocacy and strategic communications,” Brazile told HOH of her decision to open Brazile & Associates.

As a result, Brazile, who managed the 2000 presidential campaign of Vice President Al Gore and was longtime chief of staff to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), said she will not be working “full time” for any presidential campaign in the near future.

“I am going to help all of them,” she said of the would-be nominees. Brazile has already been aiding Lieberman in his search for a presidential campaign manager.

“My mission is different now,” she explained. “It is important for me personally and professionally to establish a place where I can hang my hat.”

She envisions her firm as one-stop shopping for campaigns and corporations with a focus on training grassroots activists in the minority community. She produced the radio ads for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) in the recent Louisiana Senate runoff.

Never one to rest on her laurels, Brazile has begun a memoir on her years spent in the political fray and is also teaching a class on women in politics at Georgetown University.

“My job now is to make a little money and have a lot of fun,” Brazile said with a laugh.

Paul Kane and Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.

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