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Blast from Obama’s Past

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama might have his sights set on beating New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to win the Democratic presidential nod, but he could also be facing a third-party candidate from his past.

[IMGCAP(1)]Obama’s former Columbia University classmate Wayne Allyn Root is trying to give Obama a run for his money as he vies to become the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate. Although the two were both political science majors and graduated in 1983, Root told HOH that he doesn’t recall meeting Obama while at Columbia.

“I don’t even know anybody who knew him,” says Root, a former CNBC host who now is a Las Vegas oddsmaker counseling gamblers on what bets to place.

Root says he’d love to face Obama. But if political betting were legal, he’d put his money on Clinton.

“Hillary’s odds are almost zero, but having said that, I still have a funny feeling that she is going to find some way to win this nomination in the back room,” Root told HOH.

But if his old classmate is on the ballot, and Root is successful in winning the Libertarian presidential primary in May, he isn’t above trying to milk the college connection to his benefit.

“I have an incredible edge. Barack’s my old classmate,” says Root of his intent to use the appeal of his former classmate to land himself a spot on a televised presidential debate.

He’ll need whatever help he can get, considering it’s unlikely he’ll garner 15 percent of the popular vote in a national poll, which is usually required for candidates to participate in debates.

Looks like Root has already passed political arm-twisting 101.

Batter (and Donor) Up! Of course, baseball and politics go way back. Politicos love to use baseball metaphors, and rooting for one’s home team is practically de rigueur.

A few of the city’s heaviest hitters, though, are on an exclusive roster of super fans.

The February edition of Memories and Dreams, the magazine produced by the National Baseball Hall of Fame for its donors, includes a list of the biggest annual donors to the hall. On that list were a few notable Washington names, including former Sen. and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, big-time Republican strategist Kenneth Duberstein, longtime GOP lobbyist Tom Korologos and Democratic operative Howard Wolfson, who’s currently the spokesman for the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Each gave between $5,000 and $9,999 to the organization. Perks of being a big donor include “time with Hall of Fame legends, behind-the-scenes access to the Hall of Fame archives, recognition in the Museum and invitations to special events,” according to the magazine.

The Date Markup of the Year. A Budget Committee markup might seem like an unlikely place for heart-warming moments. But Senators on the Budget Committee managed some bipartisan love during their markup of the fiscal 2009 budget resolution on Thursday, and one thing was clear: Former chairman and so-called Father of the Budget Committee Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) will be missed when he retires.

Domenici, who spent each one of his 36 years in the Senate on the Budget Committee, isn’t on his way out the door just yet. But Thursday was his last budget resolution markup, and committee members paid tribute.

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) joined in acknowledging the mark Domenici made on the committee, which he ruled as either ranking member or chairman from 1981 to 2003. “He’s a pro’s pro and somebody who has changed the position of the Budget Committee,” Conrad said. “He elevated it and made it more effective.”

Looking briefly misty-eyed at the attention, Domenici quickly recovered and took lawmakers and staff on a brief stroll through budgets past. While he said he’d angled for an eventual top spot on the committee early in his career, he had expected to languish as its ranking member. “I figured I’d just be a ranking member for years,” Domenici recalled.

In his home state, he’s called St. Pete for the many projects his earmarks brought home.

“When I leave the Senate, my name is going to be on all of them,” he proudly announced.

The New Mexico Senator, who turns 76 in May, announced in October he would not run for re-election.

Sign of the Times. It’s not just the food that’s gone upscale in the House; some new signage is classing up the joint. An HOH tipster noted last week that the old-school signs in the House-side basement of the Capitol pointing the way to the “Coffee Shop” have been replaced by much slicker, larger ones identifying the cafeteria as the “Capitol Market.”


Jennifer Yachnin and CongressNow’s Vicki Needham contributed to this report.

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