Political Capital with John Harwood

Craig And Clinton: Will Buzz On Both Effect 2008?

Sen. Larry Craig

The political world is buzzing over the salacious news surrounding Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, the conservative Republican caught up in a police sting that targeted sexual activity in a men's restroom. The news endangers Craig's career, at minimum, and might conceivably threaten the GOP's grip on his Senate seat should he be ultimately be forced aside. At a time when Republican social conservatives are already dispirited by the woes of President Bush and his party, it gives one more reason for the GOP base to turn away from 2008 politics.

Yet the more consequential development for the 2008 race may have come in the pages of the Wall Street Journal this morning, where my colleague Brody Mullins has written a piece about some unlikely benefactors of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Members of the Paw family, the story said, have donated $45,000 to Clinton coffers despite living in modest circumstances just outside San Francisco.

Their home was once owned by a wealthy businessman named Norman Hsu, a top Clinton fund-raiser in New York. The question raised by the Journal story is whether the money donated by the Paws is their own or comes from others, like Norman Hsu. The Clinton campaign says it has no reason to question the legitimacy of the donations.

The story is significant for this reason: the private reservations that many Democrats have about Clinton, notwithstanding her national lead in the polls, concern the "baggage" associated with the Clinton era of the 1990s. That baggage includes not just the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but also the furors over Whitewater and campaign finance.

On the Dem. Candidates

If the donations from the Paws ultimately are found to be suspect--not to mention if additional questions surface--those reservations will become amplified. Barack Obama, John Edwards and the rest of the Democratic field have been waiting for Clinton to slip up in some fashion. The Journal story at least raises the possibility of such an opening.

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