Was White House Behind Harris Exit?

Amid a floundering campaign and negative publicity about contributions from the lobbyist who was involved with disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R.-Cal.), Rep. Katherine Harris is almost certain to announce her withdrawl from the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator from Florida. Harris, two-term House Member and secretary of state of Florida during the nationally-watched recount of its votes for president in 2000, is holding a news conference in the Sunshine State today. Pundits and pols universally agree that Harris is a cinch to withdraw from the race for nomination to opposed Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Rep. Mark Foley and House Speaker Allen Bense are widely mentioned in the media as leading prospects to enter the GOP primary contest following a withdrawal by Harris, the only heavyweight  hopeful in the GOP Senate sweepstakes. However, the same sources agree that all bets are off if two-term Gov. Jeb Bush, who must by law step down from the statehouse this year, decides to run for the Senate. For their part, all of the post-Harris Republican Senate prospects are maintaining silence until the congresswoman makes an announcement.

Given the long-rumored White House discomfort with the possibility of the controversial Harris running statewide in Florida this fall and the fresh talk of the President’s younger  brother running, the question of whether the President or anyone in his official family have urged her to get out of the race is a natural one. At this morning’s gaggle (press briefing) at the White House, I posed that question to Press Secretary Scott McClellan.  

McClellan was vague. "I don’t know about any recent discussions they have had, but I’ll check," replied the President’s top spokesman, adding that "I don’t keep up with all the conversations" of the senior staff.