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Inside Politics

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No rivals

President Bush would trounce all of his Democratic challengers in the 2004 presidential race, according to a poll released yesterday in which he bested all comers by at least 10 to 15 percentage points.

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll said Mr. Bush was favored 53 percent to 38 percent over both Howard Dean and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, 52 percent to 41 percent over Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and 51 percent to 39 percent over Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

Though neither has declared candidacy, Mr. Bush also would triumph over former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York -- by 53 percent to 41 percent over Mr. Gore and 52 percent to 42 percent over Mrs. Clinton. Fifty-three percent of Democrats surveyed said Mr. Gore should not run for president again.

The survey of 1,228 registered voters was conducted earlier this month, before retired Gen. Wesley Clark declared his candidacy.

Overall, Mr. Bush received a 53 percent approval rating. Vice President Dick Cheney received 54 percent approval; Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, 60 percent; and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, 78 percent. About 58 percent of those polled said they supported the war in Iraq.

The alpha males

"Real men vote Republican," National Review's Jay Nordlinger writes in an essay on "political virility" in the Wall Street Journal Online yesterday.

"Republicans have seldom shied from an embrace of manliness," he noted. And while President Bush is "famous for his 'compassionate conservatism' ... Bush as hombre has been the dominant theme of his post-September 11 presidency."

Those closest to Mr. Bush have their own versions of the quality.

"Dick Cheney is a laconic Westerner, exuding an aura of competence, strength and dependability. You get the feeling that things are going to be all right if Mr. Cheney is on the case. Like his boss, he talks straight, in matter-of-fact tones.

"Donald Rumsfeld is almost a riot of manliness," Mr. Nordlinger continues, calling him "the anti-Clinton. We see this in his authenticity, his trustworthiness and his frankness. He is so direct, he practically assaults the modern, spin-accustomed ear.

"Since September 11, many Americans have rediscovered the virtues of manliness in office. The Democrats have a job to do if they're to challenge the 'daddy party' in this respect," Mr. Nordlinger concluded, adding that Democrats "will have to acquire a bit more testosterone if they're to compete with the GOP."

Click Clark

The race between Howard Dean and retired Gen. Wesley Clark for the Democratic nomination for president may play out heavily in cyberspace, Wired magazine reported yesterday.

Mr. Dean is "staging an insurgent campaign on the Internet." Though he was practically drafted by an Internet-based campaign, Mr. Clark "faces a huge number of obstacles in making use of it," Wired observed.

"First, he needs to figure out how to co-opt the leadership of the draft-Clark movement, which has been divided by infighting. Beyond that, Clark will have to figure out his relationship to the larger online community that has backed him. While he summoned leaders of the draft movement to Little Rock, Arkansas, in advance of [his campaign] announcement, Clark has otherwise been surrounding himself with Clinton campaign veterans who have little online experience.

"Some Dean supporters are upset that Clark is running, and some Clark supporters realize that he could bring Dean down," a Dean supporter told Wired. "There's going to be a lot of bad blood, but ... what we dish out to each other will be nothing compared to what we'll get from the Republicans and their allies."

NOW and then

Feminists are peeved over a New York Times editorial that called the National Organization for Women (NOW) decision to support Carol Moseley Braun in her quest for the presidency "silly," adding that NOW "trivialized the important role women will play in the coming election."

"We have become a target," Roselyn O'Connell of the National Women's Political Caucus told the Associated Press yesterday.

"There is a movement coming from a number of different places to marginalize and discredit the feminist movement," she said. "The parties and candidates want women's votes, but they expect us to capitulate on the things that are important to us."

NOW President Kim Gandy said Sunday's Times editorial "smacks of sexism."

"Are they going to call a civil rights group silly, or a veterans group, or a labor union, for making an endorsement they don't agree with?" she asked. "We know they wouldn't use that language with any group of men."

The Times ran a protest letter from NOW on Tuesday

Republican consultant Bill McInturff said, "NOW is a marginal political organization with no impact or clout, that no one takes seriously, and now they endorse a candidate that no one takes seriously, so they're perfect together."

Take four

The months-long struggle over congressional redistricting made it past a major hurdle yesterday as the Texas House gave preliminary approval to a Republican-drawn map, which awaits a tougher battle in the Senate.

For the third time this summer, the House approved a map sponsored by Republican Rep. Phil King that likely would give Texas Republicans an edge over Democrats in Congress.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it stalled last month when 11 Democratic senators fled to Albuquerque, N.M., to prevent consideration of the issue. The Senate is expected to reject the House plan in favor of its own map.

The final vote was 76-43 early yesterday, after hours of staunch debate Tuesday from Democrats.

Democrats argued that the map would dilute the voting power of minorities and rural Texans in favor of urban and suburban Republicans.

"This is political gerrymandering at new heights at an unprecedented level," said Rep. Mike Villareal, a Democrat.

Mr. King said his map was fair and did not dilute minority districts.

Lights, camera, Jersey

New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey is looking to showbiz to boost his state's economy. Yesterday, Mr. McGreevey signed into law a "Film Production Assistance Program," meant to attract more film production to the state through guaranteed loans and tax credits.

The Democratic governor was joined at the signing by actors William Baldwin, Alec Baldwin, Paul Sorvino and Michelle Lee, as well as "Sopranos" regulars Federico Castellucio and Vincent Curatola.

But Jersey is no slouch as a substitute Tinseltown. Last year, 801 productions were filmed there, generating $70.2 million. Variety has ranked New Jersey as the fifth most active state for film and television production in the nation.

Currently, more than 30 states offer film industry incentives to counter competition coming from abroad in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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