- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2002

The Democratic National Committee said yesterday that it is considering five dates on which to hold its 2004 convention, including Labor Day weekend when the Republicans plan to nominate President Bush for a second term.
In a letter to the mayors of the four cities Boston, Detroit, Miami and New York that are in contention for the Democrats' presidential nominating convention, DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe said the party is "actively considering" the weekends of July 19, July 26, Aug. 2, Aug. 30 and Sept. 6.
Democrats said yesterday that it was unlikely that the DNC would hold its convention in July or the beginning of August, a month or more before the Republicans hold their party gathering. That would allow the Republican Party to surge out of Labor Day weekend, the official start of the general election campaign, with much more media momentum, while the Democratic convention would be a "distant memory," as one Democratic strategist said yesterday.
That would leave Aug. 30 when the Democrats could go head-to-head with the Republicans in competition for national news media coverage, or they could wait until after the Republican Party's convention and convene on Sept. 6, both of which would present serious financial problems for the Democratic nominee.
Federal matching campaign funds for the general election are not approved until the nominee of a party has been chosen. Because of the front-loaded primary schedule, the Democrats could well have their nominee chosen as early as March, which would mean up to five long months without sufficient funding until the general-election cycle begins.
Mr. Bush, on the other hand, will have little need for much funding in the primary season since he is not expected to face any challengers .
Thus he would be in much better financial shape during the spring and summer months than his Democratic opponent.
"If we go late, we have to think of ways our Democratic nominee can stay afloat waiting for the money," a senior Democratic strategist said yesterday.
The Republican National Committee surprised Democratic officials when it announced last week that it would hold its convention much later than usual, between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2, putting the Democrats into the politically uncomfortable position of holding their convention much later than they expected.
"As chairman, my primary concern is the impact this decision has on our Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominees. Therefore, it is imperative that we re-examine all our options," Mr. McAuliffe told the mayors.
Republicans sounded gleeful about the Democrats' situation yesterday.
"We long ago laid out our convention window between August 23 to September 6 and there didn't seem to be much of a ruckus about it. I don't think you'll hear Americans arguing for a longer political season," said James Dyke, the RNC's spokesman.
Mr. Dyke noted that Mr. McAuliffe wrote a letter on April 25, 2001, to then-RNC Chairman James Gilmore, saying that "tradition dictates that the party in the White House holds their convention after the challenging party" and adding that the Democrats would hold their convention the week of July 18. That plan is now up in the air if not inoperative.
Democrats held a high-level strategy meeting Friday in the offices of House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt to examine their options. The meeting was attended by representatives of most of the Democratic presidential hopefuls and other party officials, including former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, an adviser to New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Former Vice President Al Gore did not have a representative at the meeting, according to those who attended. But Mr. Gore "spoke privately with McAuliffe" about the convention schedule last week, a party official said yesterday.
Democratic officials and presidential advisers plan to meet again next week, but Mr. McAuliffe "does not expect to make a decision until after this fall's election," a DNC official said.


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