You Know My Name

Posted February 11, 2005 at 6:38pm

Sick and tired of losing, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee seems to have adopted a new and very basic recruiting tactic for the 2006 elections: Simply call the Republican Member you are hoping to beat and ask him who the best candidate would be to run against him. [IMGCAP(1)]

Think we’re joking?

Just ask Glenn Rushing, the DCCC’s national field director, who last week left an ill-advised message for

Mike Brady, the chief of staff to National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.).

“Congressman [Rahm] Emanuel asked me to give your boss a call to see if he knew of any potential candidates in New York 26,” says Rushing, according to a tape of the voice mail obtained by HOH.

No one knows why Rushing did what he did. One might assume that Rushing is a kid, but he’s not. He’s been at the DCCC since the start of the 2004 cycle, around the same time that Reynolds became chairman of the House GOP campaign committee. Reynolds has held the Buffalo-area 26th district since 1998.

Though the damage was done, Rushing babbled on in his voice mail message to reveal a bit more of the Democratic playbook.

“Right now we have one name on our list,” he said. “We are trying to get some additional names so that we can make sure we are getting the best candidate we can in the field.”

Then, before signing off, Rushing dug the hole even deeper: “Just for your information, Congresswoman Slaughter is also looking for us,” he said before providing his work number.

That would be Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, who represents a district to the north of Reynolds that includes Niagara Falls.

At press time, Republicans had still not stopped laughing. Carl Forti, communications director at the NRCC, wondered whether House Democrats might take their strategy one step further.

“Maybe they should call Karl Rove and ask for the Ranger list to help them erase that $11 million debt,” Forti said.

While the flub is an embarrassing bummer for the Democrats, it hasn’t cost them their sense of humor. DCCC Communications Director Greg Speed said: “We wanted to distract Congressman Reynolds from his efforts and thought this was friendlier than another dead fish.”

Touché. As political insiders know, Emanuel gained a measure of fame — or infamy — during the 1988 cycle when as field director at the DCCC he sent a dead fish to a Democratic pollster with the attached note: “It’s been awful working with you. Love, Rahm.”

Bon Voyage. A lonely-looking Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) was spotted last Thursday evening shopping in Union Station. Just one day after Dayton announced that he’ll retire in 2006, to the cheers of Democrats who feared he’d lose his re-election bid, Dayton sure went to the right shop: the Bon Voyage luggage store.

Head down, briefcase slung over his right shoulder, Dayton was seen walking into Bon Voyage by an empathetic HOH informant. “I felt his pain,” the source said.

Dayton, who was lampooned for shuttering his Capitol Hill office last winter recess due to his wildly exaggerated fears of terrorism, announced last Wednesday that he would not seek re-election in 2006. Oddly, he even raised questions about when he’ll officially leave town, saying, “God willing, I will complete the rest of my term.”

Naturally, HOH wondered whether Dayton’s trip to the luggage store meant that he might be packing up early. But his spokeswoman, Chris Lisi, reassured us that the Senator went to Bon Voyage to buy a new briefcase to replace the one that’s falling apart.

Then she joked, “Sen. Dayton was inquiring as to whether or not he could return a recently purchased set of luggage, which he no longer needs because he won’t be making any more fun-filled national fundraising trips.”

Whoopee!

Tough Bean. Actor Ron Silver, the Zell Miller of Hollywood, lit into freshman Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) at the party following the Washington Press Club Foundation’s annual Congressional dinner Wednesday night. Like the former Democratic Senator from Georgia, Silver is a longtime Democrat who now has a vitriolic hatred of his party.

HOH witnessed Silver giving Bean a big dose of his rage at the party hosted jointly by Congressional Quarterly and the Creative Coalition, which the actor co-founded in 1989 but later abandoned because he found its agenda too uncompromising.

Silver and Bean had already met each other at a reception before the dinner. When they ran into each other later at the after party, they exchanged pleasantries. Then Silver launched into a lengthy, disjointed lecture about everything that’s wrong with the Democratic Party — its policies, its politicians. Bean could barely get a word in edgewise, as Silver kept interrupting and wagging his finger at her.

Speaking dramatically, Silver told his life story. His family came through Ellis Island. He’s the son of blue-collar, working class Democrats, first person in his family to go to college, yadda yadda yadda.

At one point in the mostly one-way conversation, Silver interrupted Bean by calling her “sweetheart.” Calmly, Bean replied, “Well you’re very passionate, aren’t you?”

Bean wasn’t distressed. She told HOH later that she applauded Silver’s diatribe. “People are going to get a little more rambunctious or passionate later in the evening,” she said. “In the end he was polite. Good for him. He cares enough to be passionate.”

Judd Kerry. Senate Budget Chairman Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) has shed more light on what it was like to play Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) during the 2004 presidential debate prep.

“I became very boring. I spoke in pedantic terms and never smiled,” Gregg said, drawing big laughs from the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers on Thursday.

Gregg, who also played Al Gore in Bush’s preparation for the 2000 debates, said the hardest part, especially for his wife, was having to listen to Kerry’s speeches at every available opportunity. He said his wife, Kathleen, “was so frustrated — whenever she would get in the car and turn on the radio, a [Kerry] speech would come on.”

Gregg said he never tried to emulate Kerry’s persona, but rather tried to anticipate what the Massachusetts Senator’s answer might be.

“We did not practice style; we just practiced substance. That was our mistake,” he said, referring to criticism of Bush’s performance in the first debate in which the president was slumped over the podium and smirking.

Responding to the “boring” and “pedantic” labels, Kerry spokesman David Wade told HOH, “Sen. Gregg did such a good job playing John Kerry that the American people decided we won all three debates and then carried New Hampshire on Election Day.”

Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.