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CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

Issa the Enforcer?: Rep. Darrell Issa, the San Diego Republican who has been spending millions of his own money promoting the recall of California’s Democratic governor, Gray Davis, is emerging as a power-broker among the several Republicans running to replace Davis.

Issa, who himself bowed out of the governor’s race earlier this month, will keynote a mid-September California Republican Party confab, where he will talk about “the process the party should go through to ensure that a fiscal conservative” gets its support, he told the Forward in a telephone interview. Issa said that several of the candidates — including Arnold Schwarzenegger, state Senator Tom McClintock and Republican candidate Peter Ueberroth — have “the right message,” but about a week or two after the September 12 to September 14 parley, after each candidate gets “recognition” for his ideas, Issa will “weigh in” for consolidation using the “numbers available” at the time.

Calling himself an “honest broker,” Issa said, “I’m in an enviable position. I get credit for starting this revolution and get a ring-side seat to watch it.”

After the October 7 recall election, Issa, who is of Lebanese descent, will turn his attention back to fostering peace in the Middle East — one of the foremost reasons he gave for exiting the gubernatorial race. The congressman, who has a pro-Israel voting record and has visited the region several times on informal diplomatic missions, said he would reinforce to Lebanese and Syrian leaders that they must not allow any missiles to be lobbed into Israel from over their borders, as happened recently.

Issa said that the White House was not playing “good cop, bad cop” on the Middle East when House Majority Leader Tom DeLay recently went to Israel and made statements about the road map that were to the right of the positions of both President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon: “Nobody is more of an individual than Tom.”

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Aiding Edwards: The presidential campaign of North Carolina Senator John Edwards has hired a New York director: Terrence Tolbert, the chief of staff of Assemblyman Keith Wright, who also worked as the field director of the unsuccessful 2002 gubernatorial bid of then-state Comptroller Carl McCall.

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Mideast Maneuver: After we reported last week that former Vermont governor Howard Dean was catching some flak on the left for his pro-Israel stances, Dean was heard to be tilting left on the Middle East in remarks caught on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

“We have to get the Israelis out of the West Bank, but we can’t get them out of the West Bank if a bomb goes off like it did yesterday,” Dean said, according to a report by The Associated Press.

“Palestine,” Dean said, “is the best hope for peace in the Middle East, partly because Palestinians have experience with Israeli democracy and involve women in their political life,” the newswire reported. “Compared to the citizens of many Arab nations, Palestinians… have a better understanding of democracy than anybody else,” Dean said at a Manchester house party.

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Nadler’s Nod: Dean has picked up the endorsement of Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who represents heavily Jewish sections of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Nadler rejected the conventional wisdom among centrist Democrats that a Dean victory in the primaries would spell disaster for the party in the general election. “I have decided to support Governor Dean because I believe he is the Democrat with the best chance of defeating George Bush,” said Nadler in a statement released by the Dean campaign. “Howard Dean is motivating huge numbers of Democrats to re-engage in the political process — Democrats frustrated by the backwards policies of the Bush administration and angered by the failure of parts of our party to lead in opposing those policies and in promoting a progressive Democratic vision for our country. He is also bringing thousands of new voters into the process — people who have never taken any political action.”

Nadler’s endorsement was being interpreted within New York political circles as a blow to Senator John Kerry, who is in a battle with Dean for liberal votes.

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New York Story: The political machine of the New York state Assembly is tripping into gear for the presidential candidacy of Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman. Lieberman’s New York campaign, whose chairman is Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, just gained Silver aide John Wellspeak as a senior adviser. Lieberman, whose been spending a lot of time in Iowa and South Carolina lately, visited the Empire State last Thursday for an exclusive get-together organized by Staten Island Assemblyman (and Richmond County Dem chief) John Lavelle. There are more than 100,000 registered Democrats on the island, and Lieberman’s moderate image is expected to sell well in the heavily Catholic New York City borough.

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