- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Cliffhanger

"The fight for control of the House of Representatives continues to look like a cliffhanger, with the outcome not apparent until Election Day, and possibly even after that," says political analyst Stuart Rothenberg.

"While Texas Gov. George W. Bush has improved his position in the presidential race, there are no indications that Republican House candidates are benefiting," Mr. Rothenberg writes in Roll Call.

"In fact, the Democrats continue to have more serious opportunities than the GOP, and they seem poised to net between three and seven House seats. They need six for control.

"A bit less than six months from Election Day, Republicans are defending six of the House's nine most vulnerable seats, and 15 of the 21 seats that are at the greatest risk in November."

Let Rudy be Rudy

"Mayor Giuliani is not under sentence of death from God, nor political pariah-hood from the voters of New York. Prostate cancer, discovered early, is treatable; most males so diagnosed die in old age with it rather than from it. He and we can assume he will live to run again another day," New York Times columnist William Safire writes.

"But not this day and not for this office. He should stop bewailing his outcast fate and get out of the way of defeating Hillary. That torch should be picked up by Gov. George Pataki; if he lacks the guts, Representatives Peter King and Rick Lazio stand ready," Mr. Safire said.

"To be of help to one of them, Giuliani should withdraw today, not next week, and declare his expectation to take his treatment and soon serve healthily as mayor. No hair shirt or pained public introspection necessary. Let Rudy return to being Rudy, with the sharp corners knocked off by life's blows, and set his sights on the governor's mansion two years from now."

Rudy's redemption

"None of the recent flaps that have engulfed the political career and personal life of Mayor Giuliani will have any real effect on his ability to win the U.S. Senate seat from New York," Dick Morris asserts.

"None of it. The divorce, the adultery, the pious tears of an aggrieved Donna, the rumors of an affair with a former aide none of it will matter at all. If Rudy decides to stay in the race, these events will no more drag down his vote than Monica hurt Clinton's approval ratings. It won't cost him a quarter of 1 percentage point," Mr. Morris said in his column in the New York Post.

Alpha Democrat

"As concern and curiosity about Rudy Giuliani's disintegrating New York Senate campaign mounts, the sense that neither he nor any other Republican can win grows as well. And since Al Gore's presidential prospects seem to be fading, too, it's quite possible that Election Day 2000 will see another Clinton Hillary Rodham emerge as the nation's Alpha Democrat," syndicated columnist James Pinkerton writes.

Mr. Pinkerton noted that New York has been trending ever-more Democratic in recent decades.

"If Hillary wins and Gore loses, then her name will immediately rise to the top of Democratic hopefuls for 2004. Are Republicans ready for another round of Clintonism? Are Democrats? Hillary herself has pledged to serve out her full Senate term, which would be till 2006, but Bill took that same pledge, too, and talked his way out of it. But a Clinton running from a base in liberal New York is far different from one running from the moderate-conservative Sunbelt.

"The same liberalism that makes her a likely winner inside New York makes her much less plausible outside New York. Or so it would seem. But then, of course, a year ago, few would have imagined she'd now be the favorite in her adopted new state."

Republican defectors

In a single week recently, two Republicans in the South Carolina legislature jumped to the Democratic Party in what former Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler said was the first such switch in that state since Reconstruction.

State Reps. Mickey Whatley and Margaret Gamble, both liberal Republicans, said they were fed up with being bullied to vote against Democratic measures on education and health care at the expense of their districts, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Whatley's district leans Democratic, with a large black population. He won as a Republican in 1998 with 53 percent of the vote against a Democrat who dropped out but whose name remained on the ballot.

Miss Gamble's suburban Columbia district leans Republican, but she voted for Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges' new school-readiness program and his prescription drug plan for senior citizens against the Republican leadership's wishes.

The GOP's leaders dismissed the party-switching as an election-year convenience. Miss Gamble and Mr. Whatley would have had primary opponents next month had they stayed in the party. "It's called self-preservation," said House Majority Leader Rick Quinn.

Whatever the reason, the defections moved the Democrats to within four seats of regaining control of South Carolina's House.

Shaheen's tax problem

New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who has struggled with the question of how to fund the state's schools, confirmed yesterday that she will seek a third term, but did not say whether she'll renew her pledge to veto an income tax.

Word came in a one-page statement scheduling her official announcement May 30 in Manchester, the Associated Press reports.

"Governor Shaheen will talk about what she will do in her third term when she officially announces her candidacy for reelection on May 30," her legal counsel, Judy Reardon, responded when asked the tax question.

Mrs. Shaheen had dodged the question for months, prompting some to speculate she wouldn't take the traditional pledge to veto the tax.

The state is one of only two Alaska is the other without a personal state income tax or general sales tax, and anti-tax sentiment in New Hampshire runs high. But Mrs. Shaheen and state legislators have been grappling with an education-funding crisis triggered by a state Supreme Court order in late 1997 to find a fairer way to pay for schools.

Mrs. Shaheen will face state Sen. Mark Fernald, who supports a state income tax to solve the school problem, in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary. Four Republicans are expected to seek their party's nomination, and one Republican legislator, Sen. Mary Brown, plans to run as an independent.

All of Mrs. Shaheen's rivals are accusing her of failing to solve the school crisis. Mr. Fernald, Miss Brown and one Republican primary prospect favor solutions anchored by a state income tax. Another potential Republican candidate wants a statewide property tax, while the other two say the state can pay for quality schools without an income tax.

Returning the favor

"Al Gore may do what no Democrat has done in more than 70 years lose West Virginia to a Republican who isn't already president," the Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail said in an editorial last week.

"The West Virginia Poll shows Gore is running 9 percentage points behind Texas Gov. George W. Bush among state voters," the newspaper noted.

"That reflects a repudiation of the Clinton-Gore administration's extremist attitude toward coal despite the industry's great strides in limiting the damage done by the extraction and burning of coal."

The newspaper added: "West Virginians want to protect the environment. But they also want to protect their economy. They need a president and for that matter, a governor who can do both.

"Al Gore has made it clear he doesn't care about West Virginia's future. It won't be too surprising if West Virginians return the favor."

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