Small Town Tom?

Posted January 9, 2004 at 6:13pm

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) may be singing the blues over the fact that he’s now officially facing the most difficult re-election race of his career, but he’s bringing in John Mellencamp and Elvis (aka former President Bill

Clinton) to belt out some tunes at a big-dollar fundraiser next month.

Advisers are expecting to raise in the neighborhood of $2 million at the Feb. 9 event in Washington, which will be the first major fundraiser held by Daschle since former Rep. John Thune (R) recently announced that he will challenge the leader in one of the marquee Senate matchups of the year.

It’s a major coup to get Clinton, who rarely attends individual fundraising events these days. Cappy McGarr, a Texas money man putting together the event, told HOH that Clinton was “delighted” to attend after learning that it would a celebration of Daschle’s 25th anniversary in Congress.

“He thought it was appropriate to come and participate in the tribute,” McGarr said.

Daschle began the year with about $3 million in the bank, but Thune is expected to easily match that take in what will be a knock-down, drag-out fight for both parties.

When asked whether Clinton will bring his saxophone, McGarr said with a laugh, “That’s probably a pretty good idea.”

And Clinton might even help Mellencamp sing a few bars of his well-known tune “Small Town,” which fits in with Daschle’s efforts to show he has not forgotten his roots.

But Republicans could take solace in the fact that that the first single on Mellencamp’s most recent album was “Teardrops Will Fall.”

Rove’s Chinese Secret. Who knew that White House adviser Karl Rove has grown so all-knowing that his advice is now being dispensed in fortune cookies at a Chinese restaurant on Capitol Hill?

The story was cracked open Wednesday, when top GOP aides gathered at Hunan Dynasty to toast Kirk Fordham, the longtime chief of staff to Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.). He has become finance director for the campaign of former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, who is running for Florida’s open Senate seat.

This made the lunch a little uncomfortable for Ben McKay, chief of staff to Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.). Harris has been mulling a Senate bid of her own, despite Rove’s hopes of keeping the controversial former Florida secretary of state off the statewide ballot in 2004.

Fordham tried to make light of the tension in an e-mail inviting his colleagues to the lunch. “As a small going-away gift, please bring along your boss’s fundraising list on an unwrapped CD-ROM,” he wrote. “This is mandatory for McKay.”

At the lunch, McKay was presented with a fortune cookie that said: “Karl Rove is a man of great wisdom. Heed his advice.”

Fordham, who noted the cookie was a set-up by House aide Jason Roe, cracked to HOH, “I think McKay should follow the ancient Chinese wisdom passed down in these fortune cookies.”

Good Catch. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) came really close to sparking a political firestorm at the National Press Club.

Kennedy had been planning to deliver a stinging rebuke of President Bush’s Iraq policy at the club today. But late last week he noticed that POTUS would be in Mexico attending the Special Summit of the Americas. So the liberal lion didn’t want to give Republicans an opening to claim that he was violating the gentleman’s agreement to hold back criticism when the commander in chief is out of the country, an unwritten rule that has tripped up Democratic leaders like Daschle in recent years.

“Senator Kennedy thought the statesman-like thing to do was to wait until President Bush returns from his meeting with President [Vicente] Fox in Mexico,” spokesman Jim Manley told HOH.

In other words, the attack will go forward Wednesday at The Mayflower hotel at an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress, the liberal think tank.

Times Squared. Is smiley Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) a diva in disguise?

While Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) faced a public relations disaster for suggesting that citizens should stay away from Times Square on New Year’s Eve because of the potential for a terror attack, Watson kicked up a little storm of her own in the Empire State.

The New York Post reported that Watson flew to New York over the holiday and tried to “worm her way onstage” at Times Square with Shoshanna Johnson, the former prisoner of war in Iraq who officially rang in the new year with Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R).

“She ended up having a screaming argument with Shoshanna’s publicist when Watson was told she was not wanted,” one spy told the paper’s “Page Six” gossip column.

But Watson spokesman Bert Hammond insisted otherwise to HOH. “She did not crash the party,” he said. “And she did not try to worm her way onto the stage.”

Hammond said that Watson received tickets from Johnson herself to come to a party connected to the ball-dropping event. But for some reason, the publicist demanded those tickets.

“The Congresswoman refused to give her her tickets,” said Hammond, who noted that the boss attended the party. “Shoshanna’s family rushed over to her and asked to take pictures with the Congresswoman.”

The lawmaker has been working with Johnson’s family amid complaints that the Pentagon has given the black soldier less disability benefits than those accorded to Jessica Lynch, the white former POW.

Meet the Press. While Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean got the key endorsement of Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin (D) on Friday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is apparently angling for the coveted Roll Call endorsement.

Three different Roll Call journalists, who do not endorse candidates or work on campaigns, each received a call seeking help from a Kerry volunteer Thursday night. The journalists had signed up for e-mail alerts from the campaign but were mistakenly identified as supporters.

“We’re in this really close race in Iowa,” the Kerry volunteer based in D.C. began the phone calls. “Any time you can come in to make some phone calls [on the Senator’s behalf] would be really helpful.” The staffers politely declined.

Kerry spokesman David DiMartino joked, “In our effort to beat the bushes and rally every possible supporter to John Kerry’s surging campaign in Iowa, we inadvertently called some journalists and asked them to help out. The good news is that some agreed.”

Max on the Mend. Aides don’t expect Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to miss much time after Friday’s surgery to ease pressure on his brain, which was caused by a nasty fall Baucus took Nov. 22 in a super-marathon, a 50-mile trek through Maryland.

Spokeswoman Laura Hayes said the surgery appeared to be successful, and all signs initially pointed to a recuperation period of a “couple weeks” for Baucus, the ranking member on the Finance Committee.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), the No. 2 Democrat on the panel, may have to fill in for Baucus for a hearing or two.

“If all goes well, he shouldn’t miss much of the session,” Hayes said.