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Inside Politics
The Morning Grind / DayAhead

Katherine, George W., Madonna ... and Ellyn Bogdanoff

By Steve Turnham and John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

Harris will likely make her decision early next week, her spokesman said.
Will she or won't she? Florida's Katherine Harris may Senate bid early next week, her spokesman says.

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Morning Grind
George W. Bush
Katherine Harris
Madonna

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Terry McAuliffe couldn't have written today's lede better himself: President Bush visits Palm Beach for the first time since '00 today, while Katherine Harris ponders an '04 Senate bid and Broward County grapples with yet another election debacle featuring hanging chads.

(For those of you who are over Florida 2000, please read on. There's a Madonna nugget at the end worth waiting for).

So, where to begin? For political junkies jonesing for another blockbuster '04 Senate race, a Florida paper yesterday offered this enticing headline: "Harris decides, but won't say yet."

Excellent. But wait, there was more.

The Florida Ledger added this quote from a phone interview with Katherine Harris herself: "I have my heart and mind set and am very much looking forward to making a decision public and focusing on that, because I think it's the right decision, and I'm excited about it," the lightning rod told the newspaper.

But not so fast. No sooner had the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee gleefully circulated the story than national GOP officials injected a big dose of caution. Yes, Harris is in D.C. for meetings to talk about the Senate race for Bob Graham's seat, and yes she would be a terrific primary candidate.

But ...

"She's still in the phase of trying to get answers to questions she will need to have answered before jumping into the race," said a senior GOP source.

Those questions presumably include whether Harris really wants to turn the Senate race into a rerun of the Bush/Gore recount, firing up vengeful Democrats in a state Bush really needs to win. Another question -- How would Harris appeal to those independent voters she'll need to add to her rock-solid base of GOP loyalists?

Then there was this from another party official who didn't want to be named: "There are already a number of qualified candidates in the race, any number of which has the ability to make that Senate seat." Among those candidates, of course: Former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, who was recruited by Karl Rove and would bring an entirely different dynamic to the GOP ticket this fall.

The final dose of cold water came from Harris' own spokesman. "The congresswoman is still in the process of making the final decision in the Senate race," David Host told the Grind. "She had committed to speaking to several people before making that final decision and she will have an announcement as early as next week."

Our gut prediction: Harris, who has shown herself to be quite the Bush team player since she made her national debut, will be announcing her re-election campaign to the House within the next week to 10 days. And, with the help of Bushes in Washington and Tallahassee, she'll win handily. Unlike, we feel compelled to note, she did in '02.

Now, on to Bush, the one in Washington, who'll raise money today in the two states where his '00 victories still most rankle local Democrats -- Al Gore's Tennessee and Katherine Harris's Florida.

This morning in Knoxville, Bush visits an elementary school before attending a Bush/Cheney '04 luncheon. Tonight, he'll make his first appearance in Palm Beach County since 2000 for a fund-raiser. The $2,000-a-head event at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens is expected to bring in about 500 people and $750,000.

Thirdly, on to Florida's latest mini-fiasco with hanging chads: Ballots cast by 134 voters in an election Tuesday in Broward County weren't counted, apparently because people failed to use touch-screen machines properly.

The vote was a special election for a state House seat, won by Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff by 12 votes. Bogdanoff said she attributes at least some of the undervote to Democrats who arrived at the polls and realized all the candidates were Republicans.

And finally today, our Madonna nugget, as promised: We're certain most of you saw the fund-raising letter Madonna posted yesterday on her Web site, www.madonna.com, for Wesley Clark. Because, as Madonna wrote, "people seem to pay attention to everything I do. Big or small. Ridiculous or sublime."

Indeed. Sublime.

Nonetheless, we thought we'd share part of Madonna's musings for the poor souls who missed out.

"I've never done this before," the singer/dancer/actress/mother writes, "but life is about taking risks is it not?" (Is it just us, or does this sentence read like the preamble dialogue from her "Justify My Love" video?).

"I know that people seem to pay attention to everything I do. Big or Small. Ridiculous or Sublime. So I am hoping they pay attention to this," she added. "I am supporting General Wesley Clark for President. Not only as a 'celebrity' but as an American citizen and as a mother. I want my children to grow up with the same opportunities that I had -- to know and understand what's going on in the world and to travel that world safely and with pride. Now I'm asking you to join me."


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