Heard on the Hill|
June 13, 2002
Got Plumbers? A computer disk containing a private analysis of the 2002 elections prepared by White House Political Director Ken Mehlman, who works in an administration that prides itself on being tight-lipped, somehow was left on a street corner a few blocks from the White House.
The disk, which also includes a more detailed Power Point presentation on the political climate for the 2002 and 2004 elections prepared by senior Bush aide Karl Rove, was picked up off the pavement by a Senate Democratic aide, who has been happily passing it on to others.
Mehlman's private analysis is explosive because it suggests that the White House thinks that GOP Sens. Tim Hutchinson (Ark.) and Bob Smith (N.H.) are in even deeper trouble than Republican officials have publicly let on, leading to some grousing among GOP insiders. And the accidental leak is cheering the hearts of Democrats, who bitterly recall the glee that Republicans expressed in 1995 when an a senior Democratic aide left a sheaf of private political data at Neil's Outrageous, a deli/liquor store on the Hill that has since closed.
"This ain't bad for a White House that's supposed to be leak-proof," cracked one senior Democratic aide. The aide added, in reference to Rove: "Somebody better tell 'Boy Wonder' to get the hole in his suit jacket fixed."
Rove did not return a call seeking comment. Mehlman told HOH yesterday that he's baffled as to how the documents, which were part of the presentations that he and Rove separately delivered June 4 to a group of California Republican activists at the Hay Adams hotel just a block or so from the White House, leaked out.
"I have no idea how it leaked," he said. "I've been trying to figure it out. I know I didn't drop it. Mine was on my computer."
Mehlman said he did not attach the presentation documents to any e-mails. He speculated that there may have been another copy in the possession of the person handling the audio-visual portion of the presentation who "may have forgotten to delete it."
Pieces of Mehlman's presentation first dribbled out Saturday, when The Washington Post ran a short item saying that Mehlman had told the activists that GOP candidates should focus on the war and the economy. The item also talked about which Senate seats Mehlman was concerned about, but there was no mention of how the presentation leaked.
Mehlman told HOH that he proactively called some of the Senate GOP campaigns to stress that his own 10-page presentation somehow did not reflect his own feelings about the races. At the meeting of activists, Mehlman showed a map that listed Arkansas and New Hampshire as sites of a "Strong Chance of D Pickup."
GOP incumbents and candidates in Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas were also probably not thrilled to learn that Mehlman's map lists their states as being "Possible D Pickup."
"The word choice — it's not a good word choice," acknowledged Mehlman, who says that incumbents in all of these states have shored themselves up. "This is an old map. Those characterizations are not accurate."
When asked why he did not make any changes to the map before the meeting, he replied, "That day I literally gave five speeches. I didn't have time to update it."
Mehlman added, "All of those races are races where our candidates are in a strong position to put these elections away."
"I think Tim Hutchinson will win the race," he said, adding that the five GOP challengers in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and South Dakota "are in a much strong position than Mark Pryor," the Democratic challenger in Arkansas. He added that New Hampshire will stay competitive because of the late primary.
As for the House, Mehlman is convinced that the GOP is poised to pick up seats. "Democrats would have to do more than run the table to win back the House," he claimed.
HOH will publish an item about Rove's rather interesting 17-page presentation — entitled "The Strategic Landscape" — in today's edition of Roll Call Daily, along with verbatim copies of the Mehlman and Rove PowerPoint presentations.