- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2000

Florio fading

After trailing 2-to-1 in a poll as recently as two months ago, millionaire U.S. Senate candidate Jon Corzine has turned the tables on his New Jersey Democratic primary opponent, former Gov. Jim Florio, the Associated Press reports.

With the election less than two weeks away, a new Quinnipiac College poll of likely Democratic voters said 56 percent would vote for Mr. Corzine and only 30 percent would support Mr. Florio. Fourteen percent of those likely to vote remain undecided.

The poll has a margin of error of five percentage points.

In a poll taken two weeks ago, Mr. Corzine led Mr. Florio by 15 percentage points 48 to 33.

Mr. Corzine, a retired Wall Street executive who is worth at least $300 million, has already spent $20 million to establish name recognition and to attack Mr. Florio's record as governor, especially a huge tax increase.

The poll was taken from May 17 through Tuesday, interviewing 371 Democrats who said they were likely to vote.

Gore's problem

Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, the New Jersey Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Democrats' re-election committee, says Al Gore has "a problem" right now in competing with George W. Bush for the presidency.

"Until Al Gore actually goes to Los Angeles and receives his party's nomination and campaigns in his own right, he will still be identified by most Americans as Bill Clinton's vice president," Mr. Torricelli told New York Times reporter Katharine Q. Seelye.

"There is still not a separate identity, and only the dramatic departure from Los Angeles is going to create this new identity," Mr. Torricelli said.

Bush, Mbeki meet

Republican candidate George W. Bush polished his presidential image Thursday, hosting high-profile meetings with South African President Thabo Mbeki and the popular retired Gen. Colin Powell.

The Texas governor, who has sought to shore up his foreign policy credentials and discredit Democratic rival Al Gore's argument that he is not ready for the White House, said he and Mr. Mbeki had "a very good discussion about economic development and the importance of South Africa."

But the meeting, and a later one with Mr. Powell, who is often mentioned for a top Cabinet post if Mr. Bush is elected president, was designed also to send a political signal in the campaign leading up to the Nov. 7 presidential election, Reuters reports.

Mr. Bush appeared to recognize that fact. Taking a page right out of the White House playbook, the governor holding the hand of his wife, Laura, accompanied by Mr. Mbeki and his wife, Zanele, strode down a small set of stairs outside the handsome, white-columned governor's mansion in Austin to pose for a barrage of television cameras and still photographers.

"If all goes well, I look forward to working with him," Mr. Bush said of Mr. Mbeki, adding quickly: "I'm not trying to drag him into U.S. politics."

Mr. Mbeki, who asked for the meeting, said he thought it was important "to pay a courtesy call on the governor." He pointed out that he would also have talks with Texas business leaders.

Mr. Mbeki is the third head of state Mr. Bush has met since he announced his run for the White House last summer. The others were Presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Andres Pastrana of Colombia.

Zealots give up

"History tomes will no doubt note that in the same week that an Arkansas Supreme Court committee moved to disbar President Clinton, the zealous Maryland prosecutors who indicted Linda Tripp for taping Monica Lewinsky finally threw in the towel," the Wall Street Journal says.

"[On Wednesday], they dropped their case after a state judge sharply limited the evidence they could present. Clintonian spin had it that the Captain Ahab prosecutors were in Ken Starr's office, a view that's been discredited by eight judicial decisions (three just in the last week) clearing his office of improper actions," the newspaper said in an editorial.

"Now the truly politically motivated prosecutors in Democratic Maryland have had to drop their case before even going to trial. It may take a while for the public to sort out truth from spin, but in the case of Bill Clinton it appears to be happening."

Hagel on the list

Sen. Chuck Hagel, in an interview with Reuters in his Senate office Wednesday, said he had been contacted just two days before by the man heading George W. Bush's vice-presidential search former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

"I've talked to Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney has called me in the last two days," Mr. Hagel said, in answer to a question from reporter Alan Elsner.

The Nebraska Republican, who supported Arizona Sen. John McCain's presidential bid but has worked hard to unite Republicans behind Mr. Bush, is one of a long list of potential running mates thought to have been contacted by Mr. Cheney.

Mr. Bush said Wednesday the list did not include Mr. McCain, or retired Gen. Colin Powell, both of whom said they would not accept the position.

He named three men on the list: Michigan Gov. John Engler, Ohio Sen. George V. Voinovich and Ohio Rep. John R. Kasich. But there are many more.

Mr. Bush said he kept in close contact with Mr. Cheney and might reveal his choice earlier than has been customary, well before the Republican National Convention, which opens July 31 in Philadelphia.

Ventura's latest words

In a soon-to-be-published account of his first year in office, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura uses his trademark blunt language to tout his accomplishments, explain his forays into controversy and thrash the media, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reports.

With "a few honorable exceptions," the former pro wrestler says in a final chapter added to a forthcoming paperback edition of his best-selling autobiography, "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed," the media are "corrupt, shameless and irresponsible as hell."

Mr. Ventura also writes that in his first year in office "I kept all my promises," taking credit for classroom-size reduction, income-tax cuts and the nation's biggest tax rebate ever. He proudly notes that Minnesotans called their rebates "Jesse checks" and "found out I could govern almost as well as I could wrestle."

An advance copy of the new edition of "Bleed," due in bookstores June 12 from Signet Mass Market Paperback, was obtained Wednesday by the Star Tribune.

In addition to the familiar themes of media-bashing and self-congratulation, Mr. Ventura uses the new chapter to take another stab at explaining his much-criticized comments about organized religion in an interview last year with Playboy magazine.

He didn't mean to brand all religious people as "weak-minded," he writes, only the "fundamentalist fanatics."

Reno's response

After seven stormy years in Washington, Janet Reno says she would rather return home to Florida than take a seat on the Supreme Court, the Associated Press reports.

Recently Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said at a news conference he would like to see Miss Reno on the high court.

Asked about that at her weekly news conference Thursday, Miss Reno replied, "I was touched that Senator Schumer said that, but I think I want to go home."

Dobson's warning

If George W. Bush picks a pro-choice running mate, he'll likely lose the White House and may provoke the breakup of the Republican Party, says James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family.

"He can't insult the base of his support … and he ought to know in advance how [we] feel about it," Mr. Dobson said at a symposium for political reporters at the headquarters of his global ministry in Colorado Springs.

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