- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2001

Among the challenges awaiting Sen. Tom Daschle when he becomes majority leader Tuesday will be refereeing no fewer than five Democratic colleagues who are contemplating runs for the White House in 2004 and angling for extra media attention.
Three of the potential presidential candidates — Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware — will take over chairmanships of committees with the power to hold hearings on headline-grabbing subjects.
"Thats a tough job hes got," Democratic strategist James Carville said of Mr. Daschle. "He has to manage a considerable number of ambitious people with big egos. Welcome to the world."
Also mentioned as White House hopefuls are Democratic Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Paul Wellstone of Minnesota and even Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. With all those Democrats vying for the attention of the partys liberal base, congressional analysts say Mr. Daschle will be hard-pressed to keep Senate Democrats focused on the political center.
"The danger for Daschle is that he cannot curb the appetite of the liberals in his party, particularly Kerry and Biden," said Marshall Wittman, congressional analyst at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington. "All of them will be trying to use the stage of their committees for high-profile hearings, which get them on the nightly news."
Complicating the landscape is that Mr. Daschle himself might turn out to be a rival to his ambitious troops. The South Dakota Democrat has not ruled out his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Asked again on NBCs "Meet the Press" last weekend if he would run for president, Mr. Daschle replied, "Im not going to make any decisions politically. Im not going to make any declarations politically until Ive completed my 18-month period [as majority leader]. After that, Ill take a look and see just what my options are and make some decisions based on them."
A senior Democratic Senate aide said Mr. Daschle must approach the situation "very carefully."
"Its certainly going to complicate his life a little bit, trying to keep them all on the reservation," the staffer said. "Hes very good about outreach and listening. This is not a stretch for him, but its certainly going to complicate the next couple of months."
Some Democrats worry, too, that their agenda will be drowned out because it will be easier for Republicans to dismiss any issue promoted by Mr. Edwards, for example, as simply a play for the presidential spotlight.
But the Democratic aide said there is nothing new about several senators vying simultaneously for the presidential stage.
"Each and every senator thinks they should be president at some time," the aide said. "Weve seen plenty of this in the past. Its nothing Daschle cant handle."
Mr. Carville said he sees no difference between Mr. Daschles situation, and that of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott in 1997, when Republican Sens. John Ashcroft of Missouri, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, John McCain of Arizona, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, Phil Gramm of Texas, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Robert C. Smith of New Hampshire were entertaining notions of running for president.
But a senior Senate Republican leadership aide said Mr. Daschle has "tighter numbers" to consider than did Mr. Lott four years ago. Mr. Lott had a 55-45 Republican majority; Mr. Daschle will preside over a Senate comprising 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one independent, Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont.
In addition to trying to hold together his partys presidential aspirants to maintain the Democrats one-vote advantage, Mr. Daschle will need to pay close attention to several other colleagues who have shown a willingness to vote with Republicans. Among them are Sens. Zell Miller of Georgia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, John B. Breaux of Louisiana, Max Baucus of Montana, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.
"As a minority leader, Sen. Daschle witnessed the loss of 15 Democrats on the budget and 12 on the tax-cut bill," the Republican aide said. "Hes going to find out how difficult it is in the majority when one or two of your members stray."
Among the Democratic senators who are potential presidential candidates, Mr. Bayh and Mr. Lieberman, especially, are known as more conservative Democrats. Mr. Lieberman has continued to be an outspoken voice for the party since his failed bid for vice president last year, challenging President Bush on issues ranging from the environment to tax cuts.
Mr. Bayh was prominent this spring in pushing for a "trigger" that would have prevented the administrations tax cuts from taking effect if the projected federal budget surpluses fail to materialize.
Mr. Biden, who made an ill-fated run for the presidency in 1988, had not been seen as a likely contender for 2004, but made a trip earlier this year to New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primaries. And when he announced this week that he would become chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a new Judiciary subcommittee on crime and drugs, his spokeswoman said Mr. Biden clearly had not ruled out another run for the White House.


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